It's the most wonderful time of the year (even if your jeans disagree). Incorporate these ideas into your holiday to-do list for a bonus calorie burn when you don't have time for a full workout.
Sure, the holidays might be a mad dash of shopping, food, and family, but that doesn't mean you have to bail on your fitness goals (or feel guilty for sneaking one—okay, two spoonfuls of cookie dough). And since all those errands and glasses of wine aren't going to finish themselves, here are a few quick ways to burn some calories without a single trip to the gym.
1. Up your tree decorating game.
Transform this leisurely family activity into a calorie-burning opportunity by taking advantage of every chance to get moving. "Putting up the lights, walking back and forth to the ornament boxes, squatting to reach lower branches, and standing on my tippy toes to secure the star means I'm usually on my feet for about an hour," says Autumn Calabrese, celebrity trainer and creator of the 21 Day Fix. "When you're finished, treat yourself to a cup of cocoa and enjoy your work."
2. Trade in your shopping cart for a basket.
Carrying a full basket of groceries during a 45-minute shopping trip can burn around 120 calories, says Kathleen Donnelly, yoga instructor and owner of NRTR Yoga in New York. Feeling ambitious? Throw in a few biceps curls. "Remember to keep core muscles engaged, plug the shoulders into their sockets, and roll them back away from the ears," she says. "You'll not only be strengthening your core but protecting your back and shoulders from pain."
3. Shake it (it being your groove thang).
Dancing is a surefire way to get your blood pumping and put you in a better mood, says Beachbody master trainer Susanna Kalnes. Plus, you can dance doing almost any holiday task—cooking, decorating, and—bonus "holiday spirit" points—caroling. "It may sound silly, but it is so much fun–particularly if you have kids in the family." May we suggest this 45-minute holiday playlist to get you started?
4. Get in those extra steps.
Whether you're tackling a holiday shopping list or making a last-minute run for cookie ingredients, put a little pep in your step. Meandering through the aisles won't do much for you, but picking up the pace during your errands can burn anywhere from 200 to 450 calories and boost your heart rate. Better yet, bring a friend and turn it into a challenge. "See who can get the most steps and find opportunities to walk a little farther," says Jason Tran, a trainer at SWERVE in New York City. "Try parking a few blocks away from stores or racing friends to the car."
5. Help out with holiday chores.
Whether it's helping chop firewood for a cozy night in or doing your parents a solid by shoveling the driveway, participating in annoying Yuletide chores can burn about 150 calories per activity, says Angela Lemond, R.D.N., owner of Lemond Nutrition. Plus, you can turn work into play by picking a snowball fight or building a snowman once the hard part is done.
6. Pick up the phone.
Time to stop avoiding that phone call to your Aunt Helen who asks way too many questions about why you're still single. You can cover about a mile just by pacing during a 20-minute call, says Calabrese. That's an extra 100 calories—poof—gone. And speaking of family matters, here's how to avoid family fighting over politics this holiday season.
7. Be a good houseguest.
Part of the allure of the holidays is getting to lounge on the couch while loved ones serve up endless dishes of delicious food. However, instead of going full-on sloth, try lending a hand to your host (cough, mom). "Insist that you help with the process," says Kalnes. Set the table, answer the door and take coats, serve drinks, help clean up. "All of this movement is not only helpful to the hostess, but it also keeps you moving—which burns calories." Even if it's not much, it's certainly more activity than melting into the couch cushions.
8. Start a new family tradition.
If your neighbors risked falling off a ladder to put up some seriously impressive lights, you owe it to them to admire their handiwork. Round up the family to go check out decorations around your neighborhood, says Lemond—but the trick is to leave the car at home. Even better if you schedule the stroll right after a big meal, which can boost your metabolism and ease that so-stuffed-I-might-explode feeling.
9. Rethink "made from scratch."
Does a recipe call for handfuls of shredded cheese (yes please!)? A cup of lemon juice? Try shredding or juicing by hand, suggests Donnelly. "Another great swap is hand-whisking whipped cream or cookie batter instead of using an electric mixer. It's a great excuse to make food truly 'homemade,' plus whatever you make will taste even better." If your arms aren't burning after all those stirring you'll at least get to work on your grip strength—holding on to that wooden spoon while it digs through thick, sticky, dough gets tough 5 minutes in. (See how increasing your grip strength can improve your workouts.)
10. Make couch potato-ing an art form.
When all else fails, and you find yourself snuggled up on the couch watching A Christmas Story for the third time in a row, give facial yoga a try. It might look a little weird (okay, a lot weird...), but face exercises can tone muscles in the face and fight wrinkles, giving you a youthful holiday glow, says Annelise Hagen, yoga instructor and author of Yoga Face. Here are two moves to try (keeping in mind to go at your own pace):
Take a deep breath in and silently laugh as you exhale. Make it big, like a pantomime of Santa laughing his jolliest ho-ho-ho. The exercise engages core muscles and smooths out lines caused by frowning—and you'll end up feeling the holiday spirit from head to toe. Repeat up to three times.
Named for Louis Armstrong and those well-defined cheeks from all that wailing on the trumpet, this move is designed to tone and smooth skin on the face. Begin by inhaling through the nose. Pass air from left cheek to right cheek, as if you were slowly swishing with mouthwash. Exhale through the nose and repeat two more times.