Fitness on a Holiday Schedule

People tend to gain weight from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day—and some never lose the extra pounds. “The holidays are a hard time to stay motivated,” says Angie Davis, physical therapy assistant with Meritus Health’s Total Rehab Care. “But a little exercise goes a long way.”

Angie offers advice on how to stay motivated and healthy during the holiday season.

Exercise to go. If you’re traveling, pack resistance bands for quick strength training exercises. Before traveling, research nearby parks and walking trails.

Plan an “express” exercise routine. Create a 15-minute workout of squats, jumping jacks, pushups, lunges and other “body weight” exercises. “This circuit-style workout gets your heart rate up and helps you burn more calories in less time,” says Angie. If you have bad knees, Angie suggests modifying squats with a sit-to-stand movement from a chair or marching in/out for low-impact jumping jacks.

Wear sneakers whenever possible. Avoid the traffic jams and park your car in the back of the shopping mall parking lot. Take several laps around the mall before you begin your holiday shopping.

Lead the team. Encourage family and friends to walk before or after a big dinner. Enlist a family member to become your exercise buddy every holiday.

Be an early bird. Schedule your workout early in the day so it doesn’t get derailed later on.

Think fast. Interval exercise helps you burn calories and fat faster than exercising at a steady rate. Carve out 20 minutes and alternate walking and running in your neighborhood. If you can’t run, increase your walking pace for ten minutes, then return to a normal pace and repeat the sequence.

“Speed clean” your house for the holidays. Set a timer for 20 minutes and see how fast you can vacuum, mop the floors or declutter the house. “Keep your core tight by pulling your belly button into the spine,” says Angie. “It helps protect your back while cleaning.”

Create new traditions. Sign the family up for a 5K walk or charity run, organize a football game at a nearby park or take the kids ice skating or sledding. “Being around people who are active motivates you and gives you a sense of accomplishment,” says Angie.

Think less is more. Knowing your workout schedule will be altered during the holidays, accept that a 20-minute workout is better than no workout at all.

Invite Jillian and friends into your home. If you don’t like the cold, build a library of workout DVDs or find an online workout. You can do dance fitness, yoga, kick boxing and strength training in the convenience of your basement or spare bedroom. “Avoid repeating the same workout routine,” says Angie. “Mix it up so your body doesn’t know what to expect.”

During the holidays, mindful eating and exercise balances the “tis the season” attitude of over-eating and drinking. Angie suggests downloading fitness apps that track movement and caloric intake. And remember, it’s OK to indulge one or two days during the holidays—just not the entire month.

Sources: Reader’s Digest, US News and World Report/Wellness.