How to Stay Fit During the Holidays

Get 3 tips on how to prevent weight gain during the holidays and learn the best high-calorie burning workout so you can have your pie and stay fit too.

Ben Greenfield
5-minute read
Episode #28

Though Santa Claus and a turkey are common symbols of the holiday season, the body shapes of these holiday “celebrities” may not be quite the look you’re going for. But between gravy, cookies, airplanes, long car rides, and back-to-back football games on TV, there are lots of excuses to wind up looking like a butterball on January 1st. So in this article, you’re going to learn how to stay fit during the holidays with the best exercises and workouts--and timing tips so you’ll be able to squeeze in your calorie-burning and body-toning sessions.

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Why You Get Fat During Holidays

As a personal trainer, I’ve had the pleasure, or more appropriately, the discomfort, of witnessing the extreme unraveling of the fittest bodies during the holidays. There are two primary reasons why people get fat at this time of year:

Abundance of calorie-dense food. If a hidden camera were placed in your refrigerator, pantry, or cupboard during the holiday season, you’d notice a significant growth in the amounts of foods that are low in nutrients but high in calories, such as meats with heavy sauces, candies and chocolates, or gift baskets with processed, packaged foods that are coated in oils. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying these foods, but out-of-sight is out-of-mind and in-sight is, well, you get the idea!

Busy schedules. Social events, shopping and other obligations tend to abound during the holidays, and time spent driving, flying, standing in line, socializing and partying is time that you can’t exercise. To make matters worse, as stress from a busy schedule builds, your propensity to fall victim to cravings for calorie-dense foods increases.

How to Stay Fit During the Holidays

Here’s the good news: among a multitude of other healthy effects, exercise helps to control food cravings, de-stress the body, and increase calorie-burning. The question becomes: which holiday exercises are best? Here are three quick and dirty tips:

Here’s a little secret: your body can be relatively bulletproof to forming fat from food if you exercise before you eat.

Tip# 1: Choose exercises that move as many body parts as possible. My wife and I were recently traveling and we had 45 minutes to hit the gym before getting on the plane. While I launched into a combination of jumping jacks and squats with overhead press, my dear wife began moving an elastic band with one arm. I gently reminded her that we had a short period of time to boost our metabolism, and she quickly joined me. During the rest of our time, we did lunges, treadmill running, rowing, push-up variations, and exercises that used multiple joints. If you need creativity, check out this page for some of my favorite multi-joint exercises.


About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.