6 Effortless Ways to Sneak in Exercise During the Holidays

Updated: Dec. 15, 2017

Even if you're conscientious about exercise during the rest of the year, the holidays are so busy that fitness might end up on the back burner. Here are some easy ways to work exercise into your day during this hectic time.

istock/Eva Katalin Kondoros

Plan for holiday madness and stay active

These days, we’re often double- or triple-booked. Who has time for exercise when we’re shopping for presents, returning presents, running errands, and attending parties?

According to the National Institutes of Health, most Americans add about a pound over the holidays from the sheer amount of food and inactivity. For some, though, it can be as much as six pounds. Along with the benefit of avoiding the holiday weight-gain, sneaking in holiday exercise can help you manage blood sugar. The best news? You can use that holiday running around to get in some exercise. Here’s how.

1. Skip shopping online. When you’re being an online Santa, you’re burning as many calories as watching television. Instead, get out there and shop the mall, parking far away from the entrance. Don’t be one of those people waiting on a parking spot close to the store. You’ll get in a good walk even before you shop.

For a better workout: Don’t dilly-dally between stores; keep up a strong, steady pace as you move between shops. For an even-better calorie-burning workout, make trips to the car to stow bags instead of carrying them around. Here’s more tips to help boost your metabolism over the holidays.


Clear drives and sidewalks with a shovel

A snow blower is handy, but when you shovel your driveway by hand, you’re getting a chore done and burning about 400 calories an hour, based on a 150-pound person. And the UPS guy will thank you for the clean sidewalk.

For a better workout: Technique matters in snow shoveling. Spare your back those aches and pains; keep your spine straight and lift with your back and hips while rotating sideways. Don’t bend forward at the waist or pick up snow with just your arms. Snow shoveling should be a whole-body workout! Here are some things doctors wish you knew about how shoveling affects your body.


Intensely clean your house

You might be surprised to learn that the typical moves you make when house cleaning (such as reaching up for cobwebs or picking up kids’ toys) are similar to gym-type exercises and stretches. So, take advantage of your holiday cleaning by being very thorough. Even vacuuming burns about 240 calories per hour.

For a better workout: Brief spurts of high-intensity effort can benefit your heart. Take a few trips up and down the stairs. Move furniture for extra deep cleaning and more of a workout. When your house is clean, you’ve likely burned as many calories as taking a long walk. Top it all off by making your home smell like the holidays with these scents.


Step out with Fido

The dog is by the back door waiting to go out to do his business. But during the winter, we’re tempted to just let him out while we stay inside. Bundle up and take the pooch for a peppy 20-minute walk. No dog? Offer walking services for the holiday or volunteer at an animal shelter. Bonus: When you go outside during winter, your body burns more calories.

For a better workout: Before coming inside after shoveling or returning home from work, take the dog for a walk. You already have your winter gear on, so you’re ready to brave the cold. Walking the dog is a great way to keep your pet from experiencing separation anxiety over the holidays.


Turn your kitchen into a gym

Using a whisk burns almost 140 calories per hour. Have bottles or jugs of water handy to do quick curls while waiting for the casserole to finish baking. In addition to pumping you up, having those de facto dumbbells handy keeps you from snacking.

For a better workout: Another handy piece of kitchen equipment that can double as gym equipment: a chair. Instead of watching water boil, take the time to do some slow-motion squats over a chair. Act like you’re going to sit but make the motion sloooww. You’ll work your legs, back, and core muscles. Here are some more easy exercises you can do while cooking.

istock/Christopher Futcher

Create a new tradition

So many of our family traditions are based on food: Grandma’s famous apple-honey cake, Aunt Jean’s sumptuous apple pie. Try making some form of physical activity a tradition. Mixing the social and exercise activities during a holiday means you’ll all burn some of those extra calories.

For a better workout: Don’t limit yourself to just one activity; find something that everyone will enjoy. Go ice-skating or build snowmen. Also, there are often charity walks during the holidays. Make them your annual tradition. Here are some more cozy traditions you should try this holiday season.

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada