Hidden Holiday Exercises

BIDMC Contributor

DECEMBER 09, 2016

The holiday season is one of the most bustling times of year. And that’s good news! Because when it comes to being active and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, every bit of exercise counts — even the exercise you didn’t know you were getting. So to help spread some holiday joy this year, Marlene DaCosta, Manager and Exercise Physiologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Tanger Be Well Center, discusses five hidden holiday exercises and how you can get the most out of them.

Grocery Shopping

Pushing a cart up and down the supermarket aisles for an hour can burn more than 250 calories. Bag your own groceries and carry them out to the car and you'll burn even more.

“After navigating a few aisles, perform a set of 10 shoulder rolls to loosen up tight shoulders from any holiday stress you may be feeling,” says DaCosta.

To get the full benefits of shopping, load up your cart with the heaviest items first: milk, sweet potatoes and whole squash. Another way to get more out of grocery shopping is by walking down every aisle.

Standing in Line

Whether it’s waiting for a restaurant table or getting stuck behind a Grinch scanning 15 items at the 12-items-or-less line, a big part of the holiday season is simply standing around.

“To keep busy and get more out of all that waiting, do heel lifts, leg stretches, or try to balance on your toes for one-minute intervals,” says DaCosta. "It’s a great way to turn waiting into a workout."


A lot of thought, time and effort goes into decking the halls for the holiday season — from getting boxes of decorations down from the attic to transforming your home into a festive and welcoming display that brings joy to your family and neighborhood. Just make sure to be careful if you use a ladder to hang lights or handle sharp objects to cut firewood, as these can be the cause of decoration-related injuries.

Cooking and Entertaining

Preparing holiday meals, baking cookies for co-workers and making a few mixed drinks here and there can take a lot of work. And since cooking at home is usually a healthier option than ordering takeout, all that chopping, stirring, mixing and sautéing can be even more beneficial to your health. So shake those mixed drinks vigorously, hand-mix dough and chop up fresh ingredients instead of using precut items.

“By manually performing these activities versus using kitchen appliances, you’re creating a great opportunity to burn more calories,” says DaCosta.

Cleaning Up After Your Guests

The role of a holiday host can feel like a full-time job. Whether it’s carrying heavy loads of laundry up and down the stairs, chasing after your five-year-old niece or loading and unloading the dishwasher, all of these activities can be seriously exhausting. That’s because these types of activities are, well, pretty similar to the things people do at the gym.

“This means it’s important to make sure you’re using proper form by lifting with your legs (not a curved spine) and keeping objects close to your body as you lift,” says DaCosta. “The holidays are about family and fun, and proper form can keep it that way by reducing your risk of injury.”

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
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