Children around the world stay on their best behavior hoping for a generous visit from Santa Claus, but can the man in red’s habits also inspire healthy habits for you and your clients in 2014? Thomas Cavalieri, Ph.D., dean of the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine (Stratford, NJ), thinks these habits below are worth checking twice.
- While late-night snacks can cause heartburn, the milk Santa drinks is a good source of bone-building vitamin D and calcium. Santa should stick to low- or non-fat milk, and combine it with vitamin fortified foods and weight bearing exercises to keep his bones strong and limit his risk of osteoporosis.
- Despite his size and age, Santa probably sticks to a regular exercise program throughout the year to remain so "lively and quick." Carrying a sack full of toys strengthens his muscles, which improves balance and helps prevent falls. Climbing up and down chimneys—while not recommended—is likely good cardiovascular exercise, similar to the kind of workout you get with a brisk walk, a bike ride or walking up and down steps.
- Santa keeps a herd of reindeer. Though not for everyone, caring for a pet can yield several health benefits. Pet ownership can help lower blood pressure, ease anxiety, reduce social isolation and even boost the immune system. Having a pet can also provide opportunities for exercise.
- Santa and Mrs. Claus have been married for a long time and marriage appears to be strongly related to successful aging. Newly published research shows that married people were more likely than others to survive cancer. Marriage also provides psychological benefits. The social connections that are part of married life go a long way toward helping limit the effects of depression and stress.
"When you add it all together, Santa's health habits definitely put him on a successful aging path that others can follow," says Cavalieri. "He appears to be in pretty good shape and should be able to continue filling Christmas wishes for many years to come."
Curious about the American Spa team’s New Year’s Resolutions? Flip to the editor’s letter in the January issue for our wellness goals.