Don't take cold weather coupled with holiday craziness as an excuse to shelve your fitness goals. You just need to be creative in how you get your heart rate up. We have some ideas—and none of them involve hitting the gym
Decorating the House
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Two hours of hanging stockings and trimming the tree burns more calories than you think (upwards of 200). Warning: Be careful not to lift boxes filled with decorations by bending forward, a move that could lead to back injury. Instead, bend from your legs into a squat position and straighten them to stand up and lift, says Cat Fitzgerald, DPT, CSCS, of New York Custom Physical Therapy.
Aim for 45-50% of your max heart rate *
* Start by subtracting your age from 220. That’s your max heart rate, says Richard Cotton, exercise physiologist and national director of certification at American College of Sports Medicine. Multiply that number by the percentage associated with each holiday activity to find the number you want to see on your fitness tracker.
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Casually browsing? Probably not going to get a serious burn. But when you tackle an entire holiday shopping list, it counts as a workout. "You can burn 200 to 450 calories, depending on your pace," says Wendy Winn, PT, OCS, ACSM certified trainer, instructor at the Equinox Fitness Training Institute, and director of New York Custom Physical Therapy in New York City. You'll strengthen your calves as you walk from store to store, and you can also expect to feel the burn in your biceps, deltoids, and scapular stabilizers as you carry heavy bags, she says. Shopping marathon, anyone?
Aim for 45-50% of your max heart rate
Cleaning for Holiday House Guests
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Holiday guests are coming to town, and your entire house could probably use a little love. From vacuuming the living room to doing loads of laundry, you'll score a whole-body workout and a clean house at the end. After tidying up for one hour, you could burn up to 300 calories—even more if you put a little pep into that dusting. "The quicker you move, the more calories you'll burn!" says Winn.
Aim for 50-60% of your max heart rate
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Anyone who has dodged airport crowds while pulling a carry-on bag knows holiday travel is no easy feat. Between lugging your bag from security to your gate and lifting your suitcase into the overhead bin, you'll work your arms and shoulders, including your biceps and deltoids, and burn about 250 calories, Winn says. We know the moving walkway is tempting, but you'll strengthen your calf muscles by skipping it.
Aim for 60% of your max heart rate
Dancing on New Year's Eve
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It pays to be the first one on the dance floor. A 150-pound woman can expect to burn 600 to 900 calories over the course of three hours, Winn says. The more enthusiastic the hip shaking and shimmying, the more calories you'll burn and the higher your heart rate will spike. Plus, you'll work your hips, core, and legs with champagne in hand. Go ahead, set your alarm a few hours later the next day. #WorthIt.
Aim for 50-70% of your max heart rate
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Shoveling can easily torch 400 to 600 calories, but proceed with caution. An American Journal of Emergency Medicine study found 11,500 Americans end up in the emergency room each year from shoveling, with 34 percent of those being the result of low back injuries. The right way is to essentially do a squat. "Do not bend and twist with your back," says Winn. "Instead, squat, hold the shovel close to your body, and lift with your legs and glutes while holding your core tight."
Aim for 70% of your max heart rate
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Just one hour on the ice, and you could torch up to 600 calories and build your glute and leg muscles, says Winn. Plus, skating around the rink could improve your balance, according to a Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Sciences in Sports study.
Aim for 70% of your max heart rate
Santa 5K Race
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Whether you're crossing the start line with dozens of Santa impersonators or doing a 3.1-mile run on your own, a 5K race incorporates your whole body and puts a special emphasis on your legs, says Winn. For the best workout, don't stall between your warm up and your run. "Studies show the greater elapsed time leads to a decrease in exercise performance and an increased risk for injury," says Fitzgerald.
Aim for 70-85% of your max heart rate