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Getting ready to celebrate the holiday season often means trying to balance work and family, baking and decorating, shopping and socializing. Something's gotta give and one of the first things we let go of is what we need most when we're stressed – exercise. Well, give up the no-exercise guilt. Here are 20 on-the-spot exercises to strengthen, stretch, energize and de-stress anywhere, anytime throughout the holiday season.
With the kids
Excited and sugar-fuelled kids have energy to burn.
Kids love a horsey-ride, but it can take a toll on your knees, so flip onto your back for a core-strengthening alternative. With your feet flat on the floor, have the little tyke sit on your hips facing you and hold hands. Slowly lift your hips up toward the ceiling and hold for a second, then lower. Repeat 15 times.
If you often become a human jungle gym for tiny toddlers, this total-body exercise will strengthen and tone your legs, butt, arms, shoulders and core, while keeping tots squealing with delight. Only try this with children 30 pounds or less. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, tighten your core as if bracing for a tickle and keep your back upright. With the child facing you, bend your knees to scoop your playmate off the floor and lift her over your head as you straighten your knees. Lower the child and repeat 10 times. Tip: The closer you hold the child to your body, the easier the exercise will be. Never lock your elbows or knees.
Climbing hills means you avoid turning into an icicle – and get in interval training at the same time. If there's no room for you on the sled, carefully walk down the hill to meet the kids and race them back up, pulling the toboggan. Your kids will love the game, and your heart and legs will love the workout.
In the car
Holiday traffic jams can really make your blood pressure spike. Maximize your time in the car with these exercises, which will improve your posture and keep you mellow.
Chin tucks will help offset the effects of prolonged computer work by decreasing your forward-head position and neck tension. Looking at the car in front of you, pull your shoulders back and down and slide your chin backward as if it's a drawer that's closing. Hold for a few seconds and repeat 10 times at every red light.
Deep-breathing exercises will decrease stress and muscle tension and activate your core (which forms your body's natural corset), improving your posture. Some time during our childhood we forgot how to belly breathe and replaced it with chest breathing, which reduces oxygen intake, increases muscle tension and encourages poor posture. To belly breathe, simply push your belly out as you breathe in – allowing your diaphragm to lower while sucking in fresh oxygen. When you exhale let your abdominal muscles pull in, drawing your belly button in toward your spine and squeezing the air out. Repeat 20 times to increase relaxation.
Prevent your bottom from migrating south this winter by squeezing your butt muscles together as hard as you can and holding the squeeze for 10 seconds. Repeat 20 times.
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Around the house
If you resent decorating, cooking, cleaning and baking, think exercise and fitness instead.
Vacuuming can build up a sweat on its own, but you can turn up the intensity with lunges. Step forward with your right leg as you push the vacuum forward and bend both knees until your front thigh is parallel to the ground. Push back with your right leg as you pull the vacuum backward. Switch sides as you go.
Add a splash of workout to your wash day. Fill the laundry basket with the dirty clothes and head down the stairs. At the base of the staircase do 20 step-ups on the bottom stair before heading into the laundry room. But before you fill the washing machine, hold the full basket out in front of you with your arms straight, shoulders back and neck relaxed. Hold this position for as long as you can – beginners strive for 30 seconds; those who are more fit aim for two minutes. Repeat for each load of laundry.
While you're waiting for the sink to fill with water, try some supported pushups to strengthen your chest. Place your hands on the edge of the kitchen sink. Keeping your back straight and tummy tight, step back far enough so your body is at about a 45-degree angle to the floor; bend your elbows, lowering yourself toward the sink. Hold for two seconds, then press yourself back up by straightening your arms. Do not lock your elbows. Aim for 25 pushups.
Dancing around the house
Dusting doesn't have to be monotonous – crank your favourite tunes and dance like it's 1999! Ten minutes of energetic dancing will increase your heart rate and burn more calories than 10 minutes of walking.
Use a little elbow grease
Forget plugging in your electric mixer; instead, grab a wooden spoon and mix your recipes by hand. Not only will you burn more calories, but you will also be strengthening your hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder and core muscles.
Think of the shopping mall as your concrete playground.
Walk the entire mall once before beginning your shopping. When you've finished shopping, do another lap before returning to your car – which, of course, you parked at the back of the lot. Do not try this with excessively heavy bags, and always remember to keep your tummy tight and shoulders back and down.
Curls for the girls
While waiting in a holiday checkout line, use your parcels to perform a set of isometric bicep curls. With your tummy tight, shoulders back and down, and arms at your side, bend your elbows about 15 degrees and hold for 30 seconds. Lower the bags and repeat for the remainder of your wait. Don't forget to breathe.
Ditch the elevator and escalator for the stairs. To get your heart really pumping, try running up the stairs or taking them two at a time.
Calf raises in line
Stuck in line again? Why not strengthen your calves and get the blood pumping. Calf raises will act as a mechanical pump to flush the blood out of the calves and around the body. They will also help strengthen and tone your calves, leaving you with sexy legs that look great in heels. Standing with feet together, lift yourself up on tiptoe, hold for two seconds and lower yourself back down to the floor; repeat 20 times.
Page 2 of 3 – Find easy ways to sneak in exercise during holiday office parties, and at the office on page 3
At a cocktail party
Stay active and keep those party pounds off, even in your little black dress.
Icy walkways are synonymous with Canadian winters, and improving your balance will decrease your risk of a debilitating fall. While standing around chatting at a party, shift your weight to your right leg and lightly lift your left foot off the ground about an inch. Hold your balance for as long as you can, then switch legs.
Walk and talk
If the party's not too far, try walking there or back; a brisk walk in winter is energizing. If the party is far, leave the car or cab several blocks away and walk the rest. At the party, don't just sit; instead, walk around, mingling as you go.
You can train your pelvic floor even while you're standing around shmoozing with family and friends. As you exhale, squeeze your vaginal muscles (it's as if you really have to use the toilet, but have to wait in line and hold). Inhale and release the contraction. Repeat 20 times.
At the office
A few minutes of exercise will help alleviate work stress by releasing endorphins.
Try a few wall sits while you're on the phone. Stand with your back against a wall and your feet about a foot in front of you. Slide down the wall until your thighs are parallel to the ground, as if sitting in a chair. Hold this position as long as you can. If you feel any discomfort in your knees, come up a little and hold where it's comfortable. Repeat for the length of the phone call and throughout the day.
This triceps-strengthening exercise will help ward off arm jiggle. Sit on the edge of a stationary chair with your feet flat on the floor, knees bent to 90 degrees. Place your palms on the seat on either side of you, fingers pointing toward your feet. Lift your rear end off the chair so your hands support most of your weight. Slowly lower it again, this time in front of the chair, by bending your elbows to 90 degrees; hold for a second. Lift yourself up by straightening your elbows. Repeat the exercise 15 times. To increase the intensity, straighten your legs. Don't lock your elbows.
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