Holiday Fun and Fitness
Staying fit doesn't mean foregoing holiday fun. There are plenty of ways to stay active while spreading good cheer:
- Invite out-of-town guests to join you for a walk.
- Wear a pedometer while out shopping with friends.
- Host a snowshoeing or ice-skating party.
- Stand up and walk around while socializing at parties.
- Organize a neighborhood caroling event.
- Dance at every opportunity.
- Sign up for a jingle bell fun run/walk.
- Try a new winter sport — like cross-country skiing.
- Build a snowman with your kids.
- Have a snowball fight.
by Beth Shepard, M.S., ACE-CPT, ACSM-RCEP, Wellcoaches Certified Wellness Coach
When you’re already busy, carving out time for exercise while honoring holiday traditions can get tricky — but it’s definitely worthwhile. Staying active will help you cope with stress, avoid weight gain, and feel your best. These workouts pack a hefty fitness punch, helping you make the most of every exercise session — even if you only have 20 minutes.
Create a Circuit
No time to get both your cardio and strength workouts in? Combine them in a circuit-training workout. Simply alternate brief bouts (about 30 seconds to 3 minutes) of aerobic activity with 1-2 sets of strength exercise, moving quickly from one station to the next. Complete one or more circuits, depending on how much time and how many stations you have.
Speed Up, Slow Down, Repeat
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) alternates cardiovascular speed intervals (anywhere from ~8 seconds to 5 minutes) with recovery periods (equal to or longer than the speed intervals) for a workout that improves fitness in a fraction of the time. Speed intervals are typically performed at a rate of 80-95% of maximal capacity; unlike sprint interval training (SIT), they’re not all-out efforts, but they’re close. Recovery intervals are performed at a low-to-moderate intensity, allowing you to catch your breath and prepare for the next speed segment.
HIIT has been shown to offer significantly greater improvements in cardiovascular fitness in less than a third of the time compared to traditional continuous training at a moderate intensity. In addition, multiple studies link HIIT with greater reductions in both subcutaneous (just under the skin) and abdominal fat. HIIT can be done on a stationary bike, elliptical, or treadmill — or outside while running or bicycling, for example.
Grab a Kettlebell
They’ve been around for ages, but they’re making a big comeback — kettlebells offer yet another way to combine cardio and resistance training in a short, high-intensity workout that gets the job done. An ACE-sponsored study found fit subjects undergoing 20-minute kettlebell workouts burned 13.6 calories/minute on average, not including the energy cost of anaerobic work — estimated at an additional 6.6 calories per minute. That adds up to over 400 calories in 20 minutes — roughly equivalent to running at a pace of 6 minutes per mile — in addition to building strength and aerobic fitness.
A kettlebell resembles a cannonball with a handle; examples of typical moves include a deadlift, single-arm swing, snatch, and Turkish get-up. A set of kettlebell exercises is typically followed by a rest period before moving on to the next set. As with any resistance exercise, kettlebell training requires careful attention to form and technique. Starting with lighter weights is recommended — 8-15 pounds for women and 15-25 pounds for men is a general guideline.
Try Nordic Walking
Head out for a brisk walk with a pole in each hand, and you could burn 20-40% more calories compared to a regular walk, according to one study. Nordic walking involves the arms and shoulders, so it uses more muscle mass — and that boosts energy output as well as oxygen consumption, building cardiovascular and muscular fitness without increasing perceived exertion. In a nutshell, you’ll get a total-body, calorie-torching workout without feeling like you’re working harder.
To Your Health
Staying active helps keep your energy levels and mood elevated — so you’ll have plenty of good cheer to share with loved ones. Making your fitness and well-being a top priority during the holiday season — and all year ‘round — will give you even more to celebrate.
Because these workouts are higher-intensity, they can be higher-risk — so check with your health care provider before diving in. As with all vigorous workouts, include a gradual warm up and cool down.
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- Figard-Fabre H, Fabre N, Leonardi A, Schena F, Efficacy of Nordic walking in obesity management, Int J Sports Med, 2011 Jun;32(6):407-14. Epub 2011 Apr 6 NW obesity mgmt
- Church T, Field testing of physiological responses associated with Nordic Walking. Res Q Exerc Sport 2002 Sep;73(3):296-300.
- Boutcher S, High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss. J Obes. 2011; 2011: 868305. Published online 2010 November 24. doi: 10.1155/2011/868305 PMCID: PMC2991639
- Nybo L, et al., High-Intensity Training versus Traditional Exercise Interventions for Promoting Health Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 42(10):1951-1958, October 2010.doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181d99203
- Schnettler C, Porcari J, Foster C, Anders M, Kettlebells: Twice the Results in Half the Time?ACE FitnessMatters, Jan/Feb 2010, pp.6-11