How to Sneak in Exercise During the Holidays

The holiday season brings joy and yes—many big meals, desserts, busy schedules, and stressful planning. As we move into this season, it is easy to fall off our exercise routine.

As we move into this season, it is easy to fall off our exercise routine. RHN Team Picture Bank, ©2020, Clemson University

As we move into this season, it is easy to fall off our exercise routine.
RHN Team Picture Bank, ©2020, Clemson University

During the holidays, we tend to consume a lot of calorie-dense foods, but with regular exercise, weight regulation is much more achievable. Not only is exercise important for helping your body work through all the fun holiday food, but it is also a great way to help cope with holiday stress. Some of exercise’s main stress benefits include pumping up endorphins, which are your “feel good” brain chemicals, and reducing the negative effects of stress, such as your fight or flight response. Exercise can also act as a form of meditation; with attention on something like running or swimming, your brain focuses more on your body’s movements and less on the stresses of the day. Furthermore, exercise can improve your overall mood with its ability to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, provide better quality sleep, increase self-confidence, and help you relax.

While there are many ways to create exercise goals for yourself, the holidays are when people often struggle to find the time to exercise—but it is also the time when we need it the most. Below are some simple ways to incorporate exercise into your holiday plans.

Shop Online

Beat the crowds and save time by shopping online. With this extra time you save by staying home, you can fit in your workout. (Hint: Start planning your workout with your CyberMonday shopping carts!)

Incorporate Walking into your Shopping

Prefer to head to the mall for your shopping? No worries! Add some steps to your shopping by taking a few extra laps around the mall when you arrive, getting dropped off a few blocks away, or shopping in a place that requires a lot of walking, like downtown.

Use your Guest Passes at the Gym

The holidays are a time for coming together with friends and family. Find out if your gym offers guest passes, and ask your family and friends if they’d like to come along for a workout before your holiday plans. Having workout buddies is a great way to hold one another accountable and also add in some extra fun, quality time with your company.

Be Active While You Visit

Try to incorporate some activities into your holiday visits by inviting guests to go for a stroll outside between meals, taking a walk through light displays, or changing your potluck plans to a day of skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, or skating for some holiday-themed fun.

Exercise While You Cook

Get two things done at once—exercising while cooking is easier than you think! Kitchen exercises have become more popular over the last few years and include things like barre exercises or lunges. Instead of watching the water boil, try some squats or chair exercises.

For more information on stress and exercise, check out these additional resources:

Move More, Sit Less
HGIC 4375, Activity and Exercise
HGIC 4376, Coping with Stress and Mental Health


  1. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020). Exercise and stress: Get moving to manage stress. Retrieved from,%2Dgood%20neurotransmitters%2C%20called%20endorphins.
  2. Keep your health habits on track during the holidays. (November, 2019). Retrieved from

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at or 1-888-656-9988.

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