When the temperatures drop, it’s tempting for humans to take on bear-like qualities – we move less and hibernate when it suits us. Except, with the fun of the holidays, we eat more, collecting winter weight on the way. In fact, for some of us, the only exercise we get is decorating the house and trudging through the malls to Christmas shop. If we haven’t done all of our shopping online, that is.
“This is a pattern of inactivity that so many people go through every year! We’re less motivated to work out and this starts the decline in motivation to eat healthy,” explains Cindy Whitmarsh, fitness pro and president of Cindy Whitmarsh Fitness. “And it’s much easier to hide [extra pounds] behind a sweater than a bathing suit!”
Break the cycle this year. Between gobbling turkey and hanging tinsel, encourage yourself and your family to keep the activity level up and the holiday cookie calories down before the New Year.
Do It for Free!
- Shake a leg. No doubt you’ll be headed to a holiday party or two. Get in the mood with a family dance competition! Throw on some upbeat music and see who can bust a move the longest. You choose the prize. Can you make it to 30 minutes?
Tip: Experiment with different genres of music, from hip hop to salsa.
- Grab some shovels. The snow’s got to go, so shovel away some calories, too. Bundle up well and remember to keep your back straight and lift with your legs to avoid back strain.
Tip: Warm up with light cardio (jog in place, or do some jumping jacks) before you start to scoop.
- Knock out the chores. Walking around the house is physical activity. But you take it up a notch when you involve carrying laundry, going up and down the steps, sweeping, and cleaning the windows.
Tip: Wear a set of ankle weights to give yourself a fat-burning boost.
- Play in the snow. Get busy making a snowman (or snow-woman). Gather some friends and family for a good, old-fashioned snowball battle. All the running and ducking burns several hundred calories per hour. Also, drop down and make snow angels for an upper and lower body workout.
Tip: Warm up with light cardio and a set of 8-10 squats. Check out the slideshow to learn how to perform the perfect squat. After playing in the snow, stretch your upper and lower body muscles.
- Enjoy the outdoors. If you’re lucky enough to live in a warm climate, take a break from holiday planning to go for a brisk walk with the family. Or head to the nearest park for a family game of Frisbee, soccer or kickball. Even in cold weather, dress warm and go for a walk on a crisp clear day.
Tip: Boost your workout by walking up a hill or two.
Do It for Cheap!
- Workout indoors. Zero-below temps are no excuse. With the right equipment and a heap of motivation, you can get a great workout in your warm house, Whitmarsh says. Check out cable channels such as ExerciseTV for a variety of workouts to fit every fitness level. Google “at-home workouts” for more exercise ideas.
Tip: Invest in a pair of reasonably-priced dumbbells, a $10 jump rope and a $20 stability ball to help you get a full-body workout. Check out Craigslist.com or eBay.com for deals. If you can’t afford dumbbells, a gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds. It’s perfect for doing bicep curls. Here’s how it’s done.
- Try circuit training. If you’re crunched for time, find a 10-minute routine that you can do a few times throughout the day, indoors or out. For example: Jump rope for 5 minutes, do jumping jacks for 1 minute, climb a set of stairs for 2 minutes, and jog in place for 2 minutes.
Tip: Ramp up any part of your routine by holding a pair of dumbbells when possible. If you don’t have a jump rope, just pretend that you do!
- Practice your strokes. Why can’t you swim all year long? Head to your local community center with an indoor pool and take a dip. Often, rates are free or cheaper if you live in the neighborhood.
Tip: If it’s hot where you live, grab a garden hose and have some outdoor fun with the kids!
Do It for a Splurge!
- Got hills? Check sites such as Target.com, Craigslist, eBay or other discount stores to find an inexpensive but durable sled to have fun with the family this winter! Walking the sled up the hill and pulling each other around is where you’ll get the leg workout and calorie burn. Then, enjoy the fruits of your labor on the way down!
Tip: Warm up with light cardio before, and stretch your quadriceps and hamstrings after the fun.
- Take it to the ice. Did you know 30 minutes of moderately-paced ice skating can burn a few hundred calories? It’s OK if you all aren’t good at it, just have fun moving. Be prepared to pay skate rental and entry fees.
Tip: If you enjoy it, go deal-hunting for your own pair of skates on Craigslist.com, at discount stores or at garage sales.
Now, about those holiday cookies…
All of this calorie-burning activity goes to waste if you indulge in every holiday treat you see. Practice balance and moderation. “Don’t completely deny yourself a treat,” Whitmarsh says. “Take a bite and then give it away, or share with someone. This will help you avoid binge eating. At parties use a small plate to conserve portions and chew sugar-free gum to avoid extra snacking when done.”
How do YOU manage to stay fit during the holidays? Click here to tell us!