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cookies in bowl near Christmas tree
Read Time 14 min

7 Ways to Stay Active During the Holidays

’Tis the season for overindulgence! It’s easy to fall into the habit of eating more and exercising less during the holidays.

During the six-week stretch between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, it’s hard to resist gorging on sugary foods and baked goods, especially when you’re surrounded by sweet treats that are a staple of the holiday season.

But if we’re not careful with our food intake and our activity output this season, we may find ourselves “bursting at the seams” with holiday cheer.

One of the best ways to stay healthy over the holidays is to stay physically active. Exercising on a regular basis not only burns off the extra calories from those gingerbread cookies and boosts our energy levels, it also reduces the stress, anxiety or depression that can sometimes sneak up on us during the holidays.

Here are seven creative ideas for staying fit during the holiday festivities.

Seek out opportunities to move. Ditch the fancy footwear and opt for walking shoes so you can get moving whenever there’s an opportunity. Classic examples include parking farther away and walking to your destination or taking a few laps around the mall before you actually start shopping.

Plus, there’s always the option of taking the stairs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in one minute, a 150-pound person burns approximately 10 calories walking upstairs and only 1.5 calories riding an elevator.

If you’re flying during the holidays, use the time in between flights and layovers to fit in some physical activity. Avoid taking the automated people mover whenever possible. Instead of waiting at the gate in boredom, try exploring other terminals at the airport if time permits. You might even find some cool last-minute gifts.

Once you reach your destination, you can instantly burn calories (and earn brownie points) by volunteering to help with the cooking, house chores and yardwork.

Clean the heck out of your house. Speaking of house chores and yardwork, if you’re expecting company this year, you’ll probably have to clean anyway, so why not set aside several hours one day and really clean your house?

Bending and squatting to put away dishes or clean hard-to-get spots, walking up and down the stairs repeatedly, folding and putting away laundry – all of these activities burn calories. Visitors with pet, mold or dust allergies would appreciate the effort – and so would your midsection.

In addition, you can use all that time prepping holiday meals in the kitchen to throw in some squats, calf raises or even dancing. Pop a casserole in the oven and head out the door for a walk or jog while it’s baking. That homemade macaroni and cheese will taste so much better after you’ve earned it!

Plan workout sessions ahead of your trip. By taking the time to plan ahead, you are making a commitment to yourself to be more active. Plus, setting workout goals in advance increases your chances of following through with them.

Prior to heading out of town, research where the local gyms are. If you work out at a franchise, chances are you’ll find a branch in your destination city. If not, most gyms offer reasonable day pass rates for non-members and guests.

If you’re traveling to a warmer place, look up local trails and parks and other routes for walking or running in your destination city. This way, you’re not only fitting in a daily workout – you’re giving yourself a chance to take in some free sightseeing.

Shorten the length of workouts but increase the frequency. It’s not like we don’t want to exercise – we’re just too busy during the holidays to fit in our usual 30 to 60-minute gym session, right? Instead of skipping the workout altogether, consider the 10- to 20-minute rule. Running, jogging and walking are always good exercises to do in short bouts, as are body weight circuits for strength training.

If you want the most bang for your buck, consider high-intensity interval training (HIIT). By alternating between periods of maximum effort and short recovery, these condensed but intense workouts get your heart rate and metabolism revving to burn calories and fat. Plus, HIIT workouts can be done just about anywhere and without any equipment.

Take advantage of the season. The holiday season is full of community races and “fun runs” that benefit local causes or charities. These are the 5K runs (3.1 miles) or 1-milers that aren’t super competitive and include walkers of all ages. There is usually a small fee involved, and they’re open to everyone from avid runners to folks who enjoy meandering along the trail with friends.

Bonus: You might get a souvenir t-shirt out of the deal that will bring back fond memories of that time you went on a fun run with friends and family. If your city/town does not have an organized fun run, consider arranging your own informal one with neighbors, family and friends to raise money or awareness for a charity of your choice.

Build activity into family visits and outings. You can still enjoy activities as a family while getting some exercise. Encourage visitors to bring workout clothes suitable for walking on nature trails or perhaps for doing activities at a local health club like yoga classes or racquetball.

If you are spending time with children, organize a game of dodgeball, freeze-tag, hide-and-seek. Why not go outside and build a snowman or have a snowball fight? Even playing with a toddler or chasing them around the house can get your heart rate and metabolism going.

Join a Fitness Group Use our Classfinder to find a fitness network in your area that will connect you to others with Parkinson’s. Or find a workout buddy to build in accountability. Strong social connections increase immune system function and reduce stress and anxiety in people with chronic diseases, studies suggest they may help stave off depression and enhance day-to-day function in people with PD.

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