Holiday Exercise Made Easy

Guest post submitted by MD Anderson Cancer Center

Forget the excuses for not exercising this holiday season.

Even if you’re too busy to make it to the gym or your usual spinning class, you can still get the 30 minutes of daily moderate physical activity that your body needs to help fight off many forms of cancer and other diseases.

All it takes is adding some heart-pumping twists to the tasks already on your holiday to-do list.

Not only will your body burn extra holiday calories before they turn into extra fat; you’ll also feel full more quickly and eat less, says a recent study. Plus, exercising helps curb stress and improves your mood so you can actually enjoy the holidays.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to get your 30 minutes of exercise all at once. You can break it up into three 10-minute or two 15-minute chunks as your schedule allows.

Here’s how to turn your exercise excuses into heart-boosting opportunities this holiday season.


Stop driving around in search of a parking space near the door. Park far from the entrance or, if you’re taking the bus or train, get off a stop or two early. This 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,” says Karen Basen-Engquist, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Behavioral Science at MD Anderson. “You should be able to talk in short sentences, but not sing holiday songs.”

Once you’re inside, opt for 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?

Readying your home for guests — and cleaning up after they leave — is a great way to sneak in aerobic activity. Focus on activities that use large muscle groups, like the legs and back. This includes vacuuming, mopping, scrubbing and gardening.

“The most important thing is to get your heart rate up at a consistent level,” Basen-Engquist says. “You should sustain the activity for at least 10 minutes without stopping.”


Use these tips to get your heart pumping on the road:

  • Flying or taking the train or bus? Instead of sitting around while you wait to depart, take a brisk walk around the terminal — and skip the moving sidewalks. When you arrive at your destination, make your walk to baggage claim or the exit a quick one.
  • Driving? Add physical activity to gas and bathroom breaks. Bring along a soccer ball to kick around, 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, use an exercise DVD or MD Anderson’s seven-day exercise plan to get your heart pumping. Or, go for a jog or hike to check out the sites around the area.

None of these work for you?

If you 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 someone with a similar schedule 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.

This article originally appeared on MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Focused on Health e-newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. To subscribe to future issues, click here.

Your Turn

We would love for you to share your thoughts.  Do you have an exercise plan that you follow?  What helpful tips do you have to stay active?

As always, thank you for your time.

Helpful Sources

MD Anderson Cancer Center

American Institute for Cancer Research

American Cancer Society

American Heart Association

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Plos Biology


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[Always Consult your physician before starting any new fitness routine.  The content on this website and related broadcasts is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical condition. Promptly seek professional medical care if you have any concern about your health. Always consult your physician before making any changes to your medical regimen.]

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