Plummeting temperatures, short tempers and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” being played on a loop at a Walgreens store near you are perhaps the most telling signs that the holidays are here, but spikes in patronage at gyms across the country are additional evidence that the season of excess calories approacheth.

Still, many normally disciplined exercisers looking to shed weight gained by November’s pie crusts and December’s Panettone bread pudding (yum) wait until after the new year to do so. While there’s more than a few good excuses for this — “the line to use the elliptical machine at the gym was too long,” “I was busy mother-in-law proofing my home,” “my dog ate my yoga mat,” “I just didn’t have the time” — there are also a few good ways to stay fit at home during the holidays without needing expensive exercise equipment, a gym membership or a whole lot of time. Sure, repeatedly lifting bulky cookbooks is a good start, but we have a few other ideas …

Weighty decisions: No matter how harried things get during the holidays, pumping iron or adding resistance with a homemade weight is a surefire way of alleviating stress, burning a few calories and channeling your inner DIY-er. While filling an old plastic milk jug or laundry detergent bottle with sand or water is one popular way to go about making your own weights, penny-filled tennis balls, tube socks stuffed with dry beans, and basketballs filled with rice are other possibilities that involve creative reuse. If making your own equipment holds limited appeal, rummage through the attic or garage for an old pair of dumbbells — it seems that every attic or garage has a pair hidden away somewhere. If none materializes, hit up a local thrift store or garage sale.

Gimme 20: Not keen on strength training with upcycled detergent bottles? No sweat. There are numerous equipment-free repetitive exercise activities like jumping jacks, running in place, squats, planks and push-ups often performed in a gym that can just as easily be done at home. Some tasks can be performed in the kitchen as you wait for the holiday roast to finish. Just make sure you have adequate space and some decent non-holiday music to keep you moving.

Got stairs? Use ‘em: Here’s an idea: Every morning that you go downstairs to fix yourself breakfast before work, walk back up those stairs. And down again. Repeat if necessary. Bonus points for carrying something heavy (i.e. a load of laundry) while doing so. If you live in an apartment building with an elevator, just pretend the elevator is out of service a handful of times per week. Walking up (and down stairs) provide numerous benefits including improved cardiovascular health and the lowering of LDL (bad) cholesterol. Stairs can also be used for leg toning step exercises. 

Walk around the block: Although the weather may be frightful around the holidays, sometimes it helps to get out of the house and clear your head with a zesty constitutional. If you’re super busy and tied to home, there’s no need for an epic, hours-long stroll … simply take a 20-minute breather that consists of a couple laps around the neighborhood. It's a great way to sneak in some low-impact aerobic exercise and gawk at your neighbors’ holiday light displays.

Other ideas:

  • Sex
  • Dancing
  • Door pull-ups
  • Kitty litter bicep curls
  • Marching while washing the dishes

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