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Fitness Articles  ›  Seasonal & Holiday Tips

Burn Off Holiday Calories!

25 Ideas, No Gym Time Required

-- By Nicole Nichols, Personal Trainer
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Ah, the holidays are officially here!

And as much as we look forward to them, and all that comes with them (the friends, the family, and of course, the food!) it’s hard to escape the stress that they also bring.

"Exercise routine? Heh. Healthy eating? Forget about it." Sound like you?

Between the cooking, cleaning, traveling, decorating, shopping, and entertaining, how can you fit in your normal exercise routine? Or even a shorter exercise routine?

Well, if you’re like most "normal" Americans, you’ve probably bitten off more than you can chew when it comes to responsibilities. So, here’s a list of common holiday activities and the number of calories they burn. Realistically, you can keep your caloric intake in check (by keeping portions small and making healthier recipe substitutions), and by adding up these common activities—like cooking and cleaning—you can still burn a hefty sum of calories without setting foot in the gym.

(Based on a 40-year-old 5’5", 140-pound woman. Men, and women weighing over 140 pounds will burn more calories during the same activities.)
  • Bathing dog (to look and smell pretty for guests!): 15 minutes = 56 calories
  • Wrapping gifts or making crafts (hello party favors): 30 minutes = 48
  • Bagging grass & leaves: 30 minutes = 127 calories
  • Light baking (of all your favorite treats): 1 hour = 159 calories
  • Tending bar for guests (not drinking it yourself!): 1 hour = 146 calories
  • Changing bed linens (for the out-of-towners): 15 minutes = 40 calories
  • Loading & Unloading the car (suitcases, groceries, kids): 10 minutes = 32 calories
  • Carrying groceries: 5 minutes = 13 calories
  • Taking out Trash: 2 minutes = 5 calories
  • Carrying wood or lumber (Marshmallows not included): 5 minutes = 26 calories
  • General to Heavy house cleaning: 1 hour = 191 calories
  • Clearing dishes from the table: 5 minutes = 13 calories
  • Washing dishes by hand: 15 minutes = 37 calories
  • Dusting: 15 minutes = 40 calories
  • Family Reunion (includes sitting, talking and eating…not fighting): 1 hour = 95 calories
  • Food preparation: 1 hour = 195 calories
  • Flag Football (fun for the whole family): 1 hour = 508 calories
  • Putting away groceries: 5 minutes = 13 calories
  • Quick nature hike after dinner: 15 minutes = 95 calories
  • Light jogging (to get away from scary relatives): 15 minutes = 127 calories
  • Mowing lawn (pushing power mower): 20 minutes = 95 calories
  • Mopping floors: 15 minutes = 56 calories
  • Playing catch (baseball or football): 30 minutes = 79 calories
  • Raking lawn: 30 minutes = 137 calories
  • Grocery shopping (with cart): 30 minutes = 73 calories
  • Grocery shopping (with basket): 30 minutes = 79 calories
  • Socializing while standing: 1 hour = 127 calories
So, if you’re finding it impossible to get to the gym, try something new this year…like NOT avoiding the extra holiday chores. Your partner and/or host will be happy, and so will you for keeping your waistline in check.
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About The Author

Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
Nicole was named "America's Top Personal Trainer to Watch" in 2011. A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, she loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Her DVDs "Total Body Sculpting" and "28 Day Boot Camp" (a best seller) are available online and in stores nationwide. Read Nicole's full bio and blog posts.

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Member Comments

  • Very good!
    Love the very real humor bits! - 12/26/2012 6:13:51 AM
  • Love it!
    I'll be spending the holiday at my sister's house. They like to go for a walk after every meal, on top of fun playing in the yard with the crazy kids. I'm not worried about not getting my exercise! - 12/14/2012 8:22:54 AM
  • interesting article, i learned a lot.. - 11/24/2011 10:22:12 PM
  • CIRANDELLA
    I printed this out to stick on the fridge! Wow - very useful! I'll be doing lots of these today. - 11/24/2011 12:40:26 PM
  • MY3ANGLS929903
    I plan on the 'keep on moving' goal today..I vow to not fall prey to the laziness that eating turkey brings..No food coma happening here...Besides knowing that I am a janitor and cleaning 8 hours a day accounts for some sort of activity.This is a very good list for people starting out.Not everyone can do workout videos or hit the gym until the weekends.This gives ideas and hope and even let's people know that everything you do burns calories. - 11/24/2011 8:38:58 AM
  • I agree with Seawave. Anything that is a general day to day activity may burn calories, but I did not gain weight by not changing the bed linens or letting my husband carry my groceries from the car. - 5/26/2011 1:06:31 PM
  • While I realize all these little things add up, I just view them as part and parcel of living. For me, intentional exercise is the only thing that makes me feel that sense of accomplishment at having worked out. What I call my "stealth" exercise (10 minutes while I go to the washroom, taking the stairs, etc.) is bonus! - 5/26/2011 8:06:24 AM
  • when I do housework, I do it fast and vigorously to get it done in record time, and to get a workout too.

    Vaccuuming and cleaning the bathroom can turn into a real workout if you really go for it.

    I always wear trainers, shorts and t-shirt for these chores, to get into workout mode. - 11/24/2010 5:20:04 AM
  • Ha! I have 4 dogs! I thought they just helped me burn calories taking them Walkees! Thanks for a fun article. - 11/20/2010 11:25:48 PM
  • ALICOTTER
    Love the list but I have to say it shows that you are from the south. No mention of snow shoveling. But doing yard work is. My yard is under about 6 inches of snow so yard work will have to wait. I did discover that snow shoveling burns about 250 cals for a half hour. So now it is extra cardio. - 12/20/2009 11:46:56 AM
  • CATHEITE
    I think there's a significant difference between staying active and concentrated exercise, but this article offers some great suggestions to counteract a lot of our little indulgences. I'm all for getting off the couch and moving! - 12/6/2009 12:05:25 PM
  • Went for a walk after the meal with my husband and father-in-law. Got me up to over 10,000 steps for the day. and made me feel a lot better! Now if I hadn't eaten that slice of pumpkin pie! - 11/27/2008 7:15:16 PM
  • TATTYCORUM
    loved this article - suddenly I felt that I was taking exercise most of the day. I wonder how many calories are used up in looking after a busy toddler? ironing? washing windows? gardening? painting? I suspect sparkpeople have the answer. What a great resource you are. Tattycorum - 11/27/2008 4:25:34 PM
  • Happy Thanksgiving to Everyone! Sure been busy around the kitchen so good to know I am burning calories. Will be taking a walk shortly while the turkey is in the oven. ...and another walk after dinner. Keep moving is the key for me for the Holidays! - 11/27/2008 1:01:06 PM
  • Happy Thanksgiving. Simple steps to make a real difference. I'm on my way to the gym before guest arrive. - 11/27/2008 8:28:48 AM
Popular Calories Burned Searches: Heavy Cleaning or house cleaning  |  Moving: carrying boxes  |  Step-Ups: vigorous