4 Ways To Squeeze In Holiday Exercise

family jumping rope
According to the National Institutes of Health, most Americans add a pound over the holidays from the sheer amount of food and inactivity. For some, though, it can be as much as six pounds. Along with the benefit of avoiding the holiday weight-gain, sneaking in holiday exercise can help you manage blood sugar.

The best news?

You can use that holiday running around to get in some exercise. Here’s how:

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1. Shop In Real Life—Not Online

When you’re being an online Santa, you’re burning as many calories as watching television. Instead, get out there and shop the mall, parking far away from the entrance. Don’t be one of those people waiting on a parking spot close to the store. You’ll get in a good walk even before you shop. For a better workout: Don’t dilly-dally between stores; keep up a strong, steady pace as you move between shops. For an even-better calorie-burning workout, make trips to the car to stow bags instead of carrying them around.

2. Clear Drives and Sidewalks With a Shovel

A snow blower is handy, but when you shovel your driveway by hand, you’re getting a chore done and burning about 400 calories an hour, based on a 150-pound person. For a better workout: Technique matters in snow shoveling. Spare your back those aches and pains; keep your spine straight and lift with your back and hips while rotating sideways. Don’t bend forward at the waist or pick up snow with just your arms. Snow shoveling should be a whole-body workout!

3. Intensely Clean Your House

You might be surprised to learn that the typical moves you make when house cleaning (such as reaching up for cobwebs or picking up kids’ toys) are similar to gym-type exercises and stretches. So, take advantage of your holiday cleaning by being very thorough. Even vacuuming burns about 240 calories per hour For a better workout: Brief spurts of high-intensity effort can benefit your heart. Take a few trips up and down the stairs. Move furniture for extra deep cleaning and more of a workout. When your house is clean, you’ve likely burned as many calories as taking a long walk.

4. Create a New (Physical) Tradition

So many of our family traditions are based on food Grandma’s famous peach cobbler, Aunt Jean’s delicious dressing. For a change, try making some form of physical activity a tradition. Mixing the social and exercise activities during a holiday means you’ll all burn some of those extra calories. For a better workout: Don’t limit yourself to just one activity; find something that everyone will enjoy. Go ice-skating or play a quick game of basketball. Also, there are often charity walks during the holidays. Make them your annual tradition.

Is Working Out Making You Overeat?

black woman with free weights
When most people finish a workout, they want a reward for all that hard work, which usually involves food. This makes sense, right? After burning a ton of calories, you’ve earned a treat, right.

Actually, wrong.

Moderate-intensity aerobic training can actually decrease your appetite, according to recent research. And when people do reward themselves with food, they tend to overdo it, increasing the calories they consume and destroying their weight loss efforts.

“Exercise can definitely suppress hunger,” says Barry Braun, PhD, director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who has co-authored multiple studies on the subject.

How, why, and for how long afterward is something researchers are still working out. They do know that workouts trigger changes in the hunger hormone, acylated ghrelin, and the satiety hormones, PYY and GLP-1—though research has yet to establish the exact relationship.

But if sweat sessions make you want to eat less, then why aren’t exercisers everywhere losing weight like crazy? “In most studies, there is a poor correspondence between appetite and actual food intake,” says Braun. In other words, just because you may not feel as hungry as normal, it doesn’t prevent you from eating too much after a workout anyway.

So what can you do to avoid post-workout binging?

1. Stop rewarding yourself with food. You don’t want to train your brain to expect a treat every time you burn some calories.

2. Keep a log. For one week, write down everything you eat. Studies show that simply logging your meals can make you eat less. And remember: That energy bar, that handful of peanuts or square of chocolate counts, too.

3. Don’t skip the gym. “Exercise gives you benefits that dieting alone cannot, such as increased fitness, decreased stress, and increased muscle mass, which helps you burn more calories and fat at rest, ” says Kym Guelfi, associate professor at The University of Western Australia, and co-author of the Metabolism study.