The holidays always seem to be one of the most stressful times of the year, whether you’re hosting a big party, visiting family and friends, or staying home. And while it might feel like you don’t have enough hours in the day to get everything done, an easy way to give yourself a break is by working in a little bit of exercise when you can — even during the holidays. 

My family and I typically head out of state for the holidays, but that doesn’t mean I like to skip my daily exercise. Even on travel days, I typically use the pre-boarding time to walk a few laps around the gates at the airport.

There are easy ways to include exercise into your daily routine during the holidays. Here are five ways to work exercise into your busy schedule, according to fitness professionals. 

Schedule your workouts the way you would meetings.

Planning your workout in advance may be one of the best ways to make certain you include exercise in your holiday schedule. But just because you’re scheduling things doesn’t mean you need to exercise at the exact same time every single day. When I cannot squeeze in a run in the morning, I will ask my family to go for an evening walk around the neighborhood. It isn’t my usual time to work out, but maintaining consistency is more important to me than working out at a specific time. 

“Maybe they’re on different days, during different times of day, or perhaps of a different length,“ certified personal trainer Michael Julom tells Apartment Therapy. “What was a two-hour workout during normal time is now a 45-minute workout at a different time of day.”

Turn day-to-day tasks into opportunities to move your body.

Becoming creative about exercise is key during the holidays — and sometimes that involves rethinking what you qualify as “exercise” altogether. The point is to move your body when you get an opportunity. 

“Being more active and less inactive means being intentional about movement during the holidays,” says Julom, who recommends finding ways to move your body through your everyday chores, depending on your own body’s abilities and needs. “Little, practical, everyday ways to do this during a holiday routine include things like taking the farthest parking spot and walking, carrying groceries instead of putting them in a cart, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and if an escalator, walk it, too.”

You can also set timers to remind yourself to move around every so often. “Something as simple as standing up as much as you can throughout the day will have a positive impact on your health,” says fitness expert Brock Davis. “Although you are not sprinting on the treadmill, standing more often will allow you to stretch.”

As always, check with your doctor before adding more exercise into your routine, and if you have any mobility limitations or needs. The point is to honor what your body is capable of in the moment, which may vary from day to day.

Many people use the holidays as a time to bond as a family, and exercise could be included as a part of the fun. “Every so often, especially if you’re at home, yell out ‘Dance break!,’” certified personal trainer Jeanette DePatie suggests. “This is the signal for everyone in your house to run to the living room for a brief holiday boogie. Pick one to three holiday songs with a good beat and dance freestyle.”

You can also incorporate the holidays into your exercise in other ways, too. Take a walk with your family and marvel over the holiday lights if neighbors have already begun decorating. And if the weather permits, DePatie recommends grabbing your best snow tools, and creating a temporary decoration of your own. “By building a big snowman, you will get cardio and strength training all in one,” she says. 

Implement small bursts of cardio when you can.

Effective exercise doesn’t necessarily mean spending hours outside or in the gym. “Short bursts of cardio are equally as beneficial as a 20-minute routine, therefore I love sneaking in some cardio when I pick up my mail,” Laura Wilson, a trainer at Cycle Bar in Charlotte, tells Apartment Therapy. If your mobility allows, she recommends switching between 30 seconds of jumping jacks and high knees or running in place. Start with five minutes total, and work your way up to 10 minutes if you can. “This short routine will increase your heart rate and re-energize you and can be done in as few as five minutes,” Wilson says.

You can also try to empty the dishwasher and work a cardio blast circuit into the routine. “This is a fun way to sneak in some cardio with a dynamic routine that targets the full body and will leave you feeling energized,” Wilson says. She suggests assigning a particular bodyweight or cardio move to each kind of utensil or plate that is in the dishwasher or dish rack; each time you remove a given piece, you’ll complete its corresponding exercise. So if you put a bowl away, you’ll have to complete five air squats or jump squats, depending on your fitness level.

Use exercise as a mental health break — but don’t stress if you can’t get to it, either.

Not only will a walk around the block help you exercise, but it’s also good for your mental health routine. A study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that people who exercise every day reduce their risk of anxiety and stress levels by more than 40 percent, compared to people who never exercise. “It helps if you can do something a little challenging,” says fitness expert Julia Buckley “So try to make that walk a brisk one and maybe include a hill or two in your route.” Of course, that doesn’t mean you need to push yourself every single day — rest days, and days in which you move your body in gentle ways, are also crucial for a well-rounded fitness routine.

Though you should seek help from a mental health professional if your stress and anxiety are particularly acute, any kind of exercise can help you work through tough emotions and let off some steam. ”Even carving out 10 minutes to go out for a short walk or jog can make a big difference to our well-being, and therefore help us enjoy the holidays more,” Buckley says. “As well as getting moving, you get the benefits of being in natural light and fresh air. Plus you’re changing your environment which really helps clear the mind, allowing you to mentally bring yourself back into the moment.”

Rudri Bhatt Patel


Rudri Bhatt Patel is a former attorney turned writer and editor. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Saveur, Business Insider, Civil Eats and elsewhere. She lives in Phoenix with her family.

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