By Michelle Konstantinovsky
If holiday season has you ready for hibernation, you're not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 35 percent of adults engage in regular leisure-time physical activity. Add parties, treats, stress and traveling to the mix, and it's not uncommon for exercise to get put on the backburner. But there are plenty of ways to fit in fitness, despite your hectic holiday schedule. Check out how to overcome typical holiday hurdles and stay in top shape this winter.
Holiday Hurdle #1: The only cardio you have time for involves sprinting from store to store at the mall.
Believe it or not, the time you spend doing last-minute shopping can be considered part of your daily fitness routine, if used wisely. "There is no amount of exercise that's not significant — any little bit counts," says Dr. Robert Sallis, co-director of sports medicine at Kaiser Permanente in Fontana, California, and past president of the American College of Sports Medicine.
"It's become increasingly clear that even breaking exercise into smaller bites is the same as doing a sustained amount. Several studies show that doing three 10-minute jogs is the same as doing one 30-minute, sustained jog."
So how can you translate this encouraging tidbit into your holiday shopping routine? "When you're doing your shopping, park in the furthest spot and walk," Dr. Sallis recommends. "You won't get your car dinged, and you won't get into any fights over a spot. Just park in the furthest place, purposely. That's a 10-minute walk right there. Go to three stores, and there: you've done your exercise for the day."
Holiday Hurdle #2: The leftover cookies, cakes and candies have made working out sound less than sweet.
"Moderation is key," says certified San Francisco Bay Area personal trainer, Jennifer Warnshuis. "Have a taste of your favorite treats, but don't go crazy. And incorporate more physical activity to offset the higher calorie intake. For example, take the stairs at work or a brisk walk after dinner every day."
Dr. Sallis agrees that everyday activities can absolutely count toward fitness, as long as they're done with a certain level of intensity. "Studies have shown that it doesn't matter if it's yard work or housework, as long as it's done with purpose," he says. "When you do these activities at high intensities, not only do you get them done quicker, but you get a workout in."
Warnshuis also believes that it's important to remain enthusiastic about staying healthy, even when tempting treats are obscuring your focus. "A helpful tip is to keep something nearby that reminds you of your fitness goals," she says. "For instance, find a motivating quote or a picture of what you want to look like, and hang it in your pantry or fridge, or save it as your phone screensaver."
Holiday Hurdle #3: You're visiting family and won't see the inside of a gym until you return home.
You may be miles away from your local gym, but you don't need a formal fitness center to get a great workout. "There are plenty of effective workouts you can do at home with little or even no equipment," says Warnshuis.
She recommends this energy-revving at-home routine to her clients: Perform a series of exercises that include jumping rope, push-ups, sit-ups, squats and lunges, back-to-back with no rest in between. If you're a beginner, perform each exercise for 30 seconds, and work your way up to 60. Rest after each circuit for 90 seconds. Repeat the entire circuit two to three times, depending on time constraints.
Need a little help getting motivated? Just slip a workout video into your luggage and ask to use your host's TV and DVD player. Warnhuis recommends P90X and Insanity. "The Nintendo Wii video game, Just Dance, is a fun fat-burning workout as well," she says.
Rethinking your definition of a workout can be helpful in overcoming obstacles, as well. If you only think of exercise as a gym-based activity, think again. "The beauty of running or walking is that there is almost nowhere you can't do that," Dr. Sallis says. "And you can certainly always do push ups and sit ups to work on your core. You can do an entire series of exercises that doesn't require equipment."
Michelle Konstantinovsky is a freelance writer and San Francisco native who has written for SPIN.com, SheKnows.com, and 7x7 Magazine.
Published December 9, 2010