December 22, 2015

Don’t fall into the all-or-nothing trap. The trick is finding small exercise opportunities.


Sometimes we feel like time is our enemy, especially when it comes to the holidays and exercise.

There’s so much to do in December that even those in the habit of working out get thrown off routine. Extra errands, office parties, your kids’ holiday recitals — they often pop up at times you’d otherwise spend at the gym or with your favorite yoga DVD.

In these last overbooked days of the year, if your waistband is feeling as overstuffed as your calendar, here are some ways to squeeze in at least a little exercise:

  • Before you even get out of bed in the morning, do a few yoga stretches. The rest of the day might leave you tight and tense, but taking two minutes to gently work out the kinks will at least get you started on a slightly more limber foot.
  • Take the stairs. At work, at the mall, at church — forgo the elevator and escalator and climb a flight. At home, climb the stairs a couple of times over the course of your day. Doing this twice in a row will wake you up and get your heart revved. Spend five minutes on the stairs and you just squeezed in a high-intensity, super-short workout. (Don’t overdo it, though. If you get uncomfortably short of breath on stairs, try taking the elevator up at work and just walk down.)
  • Park farther away. We hear this advice so often because it works! It allows extra steps everywhere you drive, for only an extra minute of time.
  • Sneak in a few reps of your favorite strength-training moves while you’re doing something else. Unloading the dryer? Do 10 squats. In line at the grocery checkout? Do calf raises (stand on tiptoe, lower back to a regular stance, rise up on tiptoe again). Making phone calls? Put the phone on speaker while you hold a plank.
  • Extend the dog’s walk by 10 minutes. (OK, five.)
  • Travel doesn’t have to wreck your exercise habit. Pack workout clothes, including sneakers and weather-appropriate gear, so you can get outdoors. Fitness DVDs, resistance stretch bands and yoga mats also pack easily.
  • Take advantage of being in a different environment. In a snowy climate, go sledding or ice skating.  In a warm climate, enjoy the sun during walks, bike rides or swimming. Not a swimmer? Walk or jog in the pool as your kids play. The water provides full-body resistance but it’s easy on your joints.
  • If you have a house full of visiting family, recruit fitness-minded relatives to join you at your usual class, or offer to try whatever they like doing to stay active. If that’s not an option, consider getting up a bit early to squeeze in a walk before the gang wakes for the day.
  • Walking is the easiest, most convenient exercise to do, either according to a schedule or spontaneously as opportunities happen. Even a short walk will make you feel energized and help keep you on track with your fitness. Enlist a family member or friend to commit to a daily walk with you.
  • Find a window of time when others are napping or watching TV to grab a quick 20-minute walk. Walking can also help curb your appetite right before a big meal, so can you slip out for 10 minutes before everyone stampedes to the kitchen?
  • Suggest a family walk (or bike ride). A stroll around the block after dinner to look at the neighbors’ holiday lights is a good excuse. Plus, any outdoor activity gets the kids’ wiggles out after all that sugar consumption!
  • Repeat this mantra: A little is better than nothing. Yes, your usual hourlong spin class torches calories and banishes stress, but just because you don’t have a full hour anytime today (or this week) doesn’t mean you can’t do anything physical. Five minutes on Google yields information on many mobile apps designed to provide fast (think 7-minute! Even 5-minute!) workouts. Choose a few that are right for your fitness level and schedule, try them out and accept that any physical activity is better than no physical activity.


Find more helpful information on how to jump-start your exercise routine here.