The Ohio State University Alumni Association

Consider wellness gifts for family, friends and yourself this season.

Like me, you may find the holidays both exhilarating and stressful. Your weekly fitness routine is interrupted by family gatherings and parties, your to-do list has quadrupled and delicious holiday food beckons from every table and office lounge.

If you feel tempted to toss health habits aside for a while, you’re not alone as the average American gains at least one to two pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. Most of us do not shed the extra weight despite the rush to join gyms on New Year’s Day. That adds up to a lot after a few years.

Holiday stress also can weaken your immune system, making you vulnerable to the season’s viruses. Staying committed to health and wellness during the holidays is vital to your long-term well-being.

You may be thinking of asking for a fitness-related gift for yourself this year, such as a wearable fitness tracker to record your daily steps, a membership to a gym or yoga studio, a session with a personal trainer or new fitness equipment such as weights or running shoes. Why not ask if you can receive this gift early, so you can use it to keep in shape and reduce stress?

It may even be time to indulge in a special wellness gift for yourself. Consider blocking out some solitary time to walk in the woods and watch the snow fall. That will put you in a holiday mood and get you moving as well! Buy yourself that beautiful holiday platter you’ve always wanted and keep it stocked with fresh-cut veggies to snack on. Promise yourself the treat of a warm bath to shed stress. A little relaxation goes a long way in keeping your immune system healthy.

Get creative with gifts of health and wellness for others. I know of one mother who decided that the big gift to her twin sons every year would be an experience, rather than an object, to keep the family active and reduce clutter. They have great memories now of sailing, skiing, kayaking and spelunking trips together.

Could someone on your list use an activity boost? Ask family members what sports equipment they’re craving. The adventurous person might like a gift certificate to a climbing gym or a trampoline park, while a zoo membership ensures a lot of walking. And, because hydration is always important, reusable water bottles make great small presents for family and co-workers.

Gifts, of course, aren’t limited to those we wrap up and exchange. You also can give simple gifts of wellness to family and friends just by offering to walk with them or help them keep on track with their fitness goals. Ask your cousins to meet for smoothies and salads this year instead of cookies and egg nog. Or host a holiday healthful snack exchange instead of a cookie exchange. Cookbooks with healthful recipes make great gifts, too.

Remember, you can’t take great care of others unless you take great care of yourself. Your health and wellness are precious gifts to you. The efforts you take to safeguard them this holiday season can last a lifetime.

Bernadette Mazurek Melnyk is the university’s chief wellness officer, associate vice president for health promotion and College of Nursing dean.