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Holiday Exercise: No Gym Required

Focused on Health - November 2010

woman with snowballby Laura Nathan-Garner

Forget the excuses for not exercising this holiday season. Even if you’re too busy to make it to the gym or your usual spinning class, you can still get the 30 minutes of daily moderate physical activity that your body needs to help fight off many forms of cancer 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, says a recent study. 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 it up into three 10-minute or two 15-minute chunks as your schedule allows.

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

Shopping?man shopping 

Stop driving around in search of a parking space near the door. Instead, park far from the entrance to pack in some extra walking.

Taking the bus or the subway? Get off a stop or two early and walk the rest of the way.

Once you’re inside, opt for 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 guests is a great way to slip in aerobic activity. Get your fill by gardening, vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, scrubbing and dusting before your guests arrive — and after they leave.

Going to or having a party?

Turn on upbeat music and encourage everyone to get up and dance. It’s an easy way to have fun, burn some calories and stay away from the snack bowl.

Traveling?woman at airport

Use these tips to get your heart pumping on the road:

Flying or taking the train or bus? Instead of sitting around while you wait to depart, take a brisk walk around the terminal — and skip the moving sidewalks. When you arrive at your destination, make your walk to baggage claim or the exit a quick one.

Driving? Add physical activity to gas and bathroom breaks. Bring along a soccer ball to kick around, 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 to stretch your back and stomach, lower body and upper-body and get your heart pumping.  Or, go for a jog or hike to check out the sites around the area.

Surrounded by family?

You’re not the only one who needs exercise! Help your entire family exercise by teaming up to:

  • Train for a holiday race. Many cities hold a turkey trot on Thanksgiving.ice skates
  • Go apple picking.
  • Take a brisk walk around the neighborhood.
  • Go hiking.
  • Go horseback riding.
  • Ride bicycles.
  • Ice skate.
  • Play a game of flag football, Ultimate Frisbee or basketball.

None of these work for you?

If you 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 someone with a similar schedule 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)

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