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Holiday Exercise: No Gym Required

Focused on Health - November 2011

holiday exerciseby Laura Nathan-Garner

Forget the excuses for not exercising this holiday season. Even if you’re too busy for your usual workout, you can still get the 30 minutes of daily moderate physical activity that your body needs to help fight off many cancers and other diseases. All it takes is adding some heart-pumping twists to the tasks already on your holiday to-do list.

Not only will your body burn those extra holiday calories before they turn into extra belly fat; you’ll also feel full more quickly and eat less. Plus, exercising helps curb stress and improves your mood so you can actually enjoy the holidays.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to get your 30 minutes of exercise all at once. “You can break your daily workout into three 10-minute or two 15-minute chunks as your schedule allows,” says Karen Basen-Engquist, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Behavioral Science at MD Anderson.

Can’t get your full 30 minutes of exercise for the day? Even 15 minutes of daily exercise can increase your life expectancy by up to three years, says recent research.

Here’s how to turn your exercise excuses into heart-boosting opportunities this holiday season.

holiday exerciseShopping?

Stop looking for a parking space near the door, and park far from the entrance. Or, if you’re taking the bus or train, get off a stop or two early. Either way, you’ll pack in some extra walking.

“For walking to count as exercise, you should be a little out of breath and feel your heart beating a little faster,” Basen-Engquist says.

While shopping, take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. If possible, carry your purchases instead of using a shopping cart. You’ll get your heart pumping and sneak in some strength training.

Hosting guests?  

Readying your home for visitors is a great way to slip in aerobic activity, but not just any tidying will do the trick.

“The most important thing is to get your heart rate up at a consistent level,” Basen-Engquist says.

So, focus on repetitive activities that use large muscle groups, like your legs and back. This includes vacuuming, mopping, scrubbing, gardening and even taking multiple trips upstairs to put away laundry or holiday decorations.


holiday exerciseGet your heart pumping on the road with these tips:

  • Flying or taking the train or bus? While waiting to depart, take a brisk walk around the terminal — and skip the moving sidewalks. When you reach your destination, make your walk to baggage claim or the exit a quick one.
  • Driving? Add physical activity to gas and bathroom breaks. Kick around a soccer ball, throw a Frisbee® or take a brisk walk.
  • Staying at a hotel or with friends or relatives? Many hotels offer gyms and even exercise classes. If that’s not an option, use an exercise DVD or our seven-day exercise plan. Or, explore the area by taking a jog, hike or brisk walk.

Surrounded by family?

Help your entire family exercise by teaming up to:

  • Train for a holiday race. Many cities hold a turkey trot on Thanksgiving.
  • Go hiking.
  • Go horseback riding.
  • Ice skate.

None of these work for you?

Still can’t work exercise into your holiday activities? Try these tips:

  • Use your lunch hour to jog or take a brisk walk.
  • Take the stairs at work.
  • Schedule workouts ahead of time.
  • Enlist a friend or family member to walk with you during the holidays. Buddying up motivates both of you and gives you a chance to catch up and stay connected.

Remember, some things can wait until after the holidays, but your health isn’t one of them.

Related Links
Control Your Holiday Hunger (MD Anderson)
5-Minute Holiday Stress Relief (MD Anderson)

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