Forget the excuses for not exercising this holiday season. Even if you’re too busy for your usual workout, you can still get the 150 minutes of weekly moderate physical activity that help you to maintain a healthy weight and lower your cancer risks. All it takes is adding some heart-pumping twists to the tasks already on your holiday to-do list.
Exercising won’t just help your body burn those extra holiday calories before they turn into extra body fat. It also helps curb stress, lower blood pressure and improve your mood, so you can actually enjoy the holidays.
Keep in mind that you can break up your weekly, and even daily, workout to fit your schedule. “If you plan to work out 30 minutes a day for five days, you can break those daily minutes into three 10-minute or two 15-minute chunks as your schedule allows,” says Karen Basen-Engquist, Ph.D., professor 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.
Shopping: Use the stairs and carry bags
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: Boost your house cleaning activities
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.
Traveling: Take physical activity breaks
You can get 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, find an exercise video online, or use an exercise DVD or an exercise app. Or, explore the area by taking a jog, hike or brisk walk.
Surrounded by family: Do group activities
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.
Extra tips to help you move more
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.
Request an appointment at MD Anderson's Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center online or call 877-632-6789.