When the holiday season leaves you sleepless and tense from the stresses of commitments, crowds, shopping and entertaining, Encinitas Physical Therapist Karen Turner-Schlegel has a suggestion: Sweat away that stress by making exercise a part of your holiday tradition.

“Pretty much any form of exercise, whether it’s walking, running, lifting weights, or of course Pilates, can help relieve stress during times of year that are especially demanding, such as the holiday season,” said Karen, owner of Karen Turner-Schlegel Physical Therapy & Pilates in Encinitas. “And movement isn’t just a powerful remedy for stress. It can also help ease the symptoms of mild depression and anxiety.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, physical activity leads to the increased production of endorphins, which are neurotransmitters in the brain that help you feel good. In addition, exercise has a “meditation in motion” effect as the focus on physical activity helps you forget about the stressors of your day. “Exercise does wonders in improving your self-confidence, a tired body helps you relax during the day, and you’ll likely even sleep better,” Karen said. “The body and mind are connected, so when one feels good – say, your body – your mind will typically follow its lead.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that each week, adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (brisk walking or swimming) – or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise (e.g., running) – plus some strength training on two or more days.

If you currently don’t follow an exercise routine, Karen offers the following recommendations to get you started:

Consult your physician.  If you have health concerns or just haven’t exercised in a while, it’s worth making sure your body can handle the increased workload.

Start small. Don’t try to start at the top. Set small, incremental goals that will help build your fitness level, easing you into longer workouts and the consistency of a daily routine. Be patient.

Have fun. Plan exercises and activities you enjoy and which fit your personality. If you’re competitive, take up a racquet sport. If you’re social, join a group fitness class. And if you’re more introverted, find a good solo activity.

Use the buddy system. Workout buddies help infuse an element of positive peer pressure into your exercise routine, giving your workouts better consistency and accountability. Plus, exercising with a friend is more fun and helps your workout seemingly move along much quicker.

Mix it up. Change exercises and routines occasionally to break up the workout monotony. Allow yourself to explore other activities and disciplines that may challenge your body in different ways.

In addition, Karen notes that certified movement experts like herself can help people of all levels establish individualized workout routines that are more in-tune with one’s strengths and limitations, as well as personal fitness goals.