The Holidays & Counseling Patients On Physical Activity

We’re officially inside the 2016 holiday season! And—however you’re bound to celebrate—I’d bet your tradition relies heavily on eating delicious food… and likely a more than ample quantity of it.


Estimates vary widely in how much weight we gain each year during the holidays. Review of a few popular websites lends support to a few general points: 1. The trend appears to be real, and 2. Americans aren’t in this alone.




While predictions differ about what how much heavier our scales will read, perhaps it’s not quite as bad as we used to believe. Data reported in the New England Journal of Medicine would suggest that new weight gain come late February or early March, on average, is 0.48 kg /- 2.22 kg (p = 0.003) in a “convenience sample” of 195 adults1.


In any event, I think the holiday season is the perfect time for a bit of honesty with ourselves. If social circumstance makes it too difficult to refrain from indulging in all of the great foods the season has to offer—with weight gain as the necessary tradeoff—maybe now is the time to consider how we can begin to place a greater emphasis on exercising. After all, you can either hear it from me now, or in the time immediately before the New Year, when everyone is generating his or her resolutions to usher in 2017.


In this case, your decision might not just be a benefit to yourself. In the results from a national survey conducted among Primary Care physicians across the country, providers who performed regular aerobic activity or strength training were more likely to counsel their patients to do the same. Inadequate time (noted by 61% of respondents) and inadequate knowledge and/or experience (noted by 16% of respondents) were reported as the major barriers in providing counseling on these activities2.


This was data published 16 years ago, but it begs at least one very important question: Do we practice what we preach, as providers?


Whatever you decide is the right decision for you, one would be hard-pressed to overstate the importance of physical activity in nearly every disease state affecting the cardiovascular system (and the vast majority of those that do not). So, this is certainly a topic that deserves more attention… even if you’d rather that message be delivered after indulging in all of the holiday goodies.

Mark Kaeppler, MD
Cardiology Fellow, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wis.

Mark Kaeppler is a Cardiology Fellow at the Medical College of Wisconsin. He’s in the process of focusing his research interests. The opinions expressed are solely his own.

1. A prospective study of holiday weight gain. Yanovski JA, Yanovski SZ, Sovik KN, Nguyen TT, O'Neil PM, Sebring NG. New England Journal of Medicine. 2000, March 23;342(12):861-7.
2. Personal exercise habits and counseling practices of primary care physicians: a national survey. Abramson S, Stein J, Schaufele M, Frates E, Rogan S. Clinical Journal of Sport Med. 2000, January;10(1):40-8.

Posted by Mark Kaeppler on Dec 13, 2016 3:33 PM America/Chicago