20 ways to stay fit over the holidays

“I look forward to the holidays except for one thing: I know I’ll stop going to the gym, gain weight and arrive at Jan. 1 feeling pretty bad about myself.”

If that sounds familiar, you have plenty of company. This time of year is an especially challenging time to focus on fitness. On the one hand, extra festivities mean lots of opportunities for extra eating and drinking. On the other hand, hectic holiday schedules leave little to no time for working off the extra calories. As a result, many of us pick up some unwelcome weight between now and New Year's Day.

With a little planning, however, you can enjoy the season and still emerge in the New Year feeling good about your fitness. To help with your planning, here are 20 tips from our fitness teams. Take a look, choose a few that make sense for your life, and make them a part of your strategy to enjoy a healthy, happy, active holiday season.

Sneak in extra activity while shopping and socializing

  1. Shop online and use the time you save for exercise.
  2. Shop downtown or in an urban neighborhood where running your errands will involve a lot of walking.
  3. If you shop at a mall, go early and lap the mall a time or two before working you way down your gift list.
  4. Joining friends at a restaurant or theater? Park or hop off the bus 10 blocks away and walk the rest.
  5. Mark an exercise appointment on your calendar, and keep it as faithfully as you would any other appointment.
  6. Ask at your gym about guest passes for your visitors and houseguests, and invite them to exercise with you. (They may be missing their usual workout routines, too.)
  7. Hosting a dinner at your place? Ask guests to bring comfortable shoes and warm coats, and take them on a stroll through the neighborhood between dinner and dessert.
  8. When planning get-togethers with friends, suggest a walk in an area where you can take in the holiday lights and displays.
  9. Instead of the usual potluck with the relatives, suggest hiking, walking, biking, snowshoeing, skating, skiing, sledding or any type of outing that involves physical activity.

Plan ahead to fit in fitness during holiday travels

  1. If you'll be staying at a hotel, book one with a fitness center or lap pool.
  2. Find out whether your gym offers reciprocal benefits at a facility near your destination.
  3. If you'll be staying with friends or relatives, let them know in advance that you'd like to make time for exercise, and invite them to join you.
  4. Invest in portable exercise gear that you can pack in your suitcase, such as resistance bands or a jump rope.
  5. Wear a pedometer for several days before your trip to measure your usual activity level. Then bring it with you on your trip and try to match that level.
  6. Load an MP3 player with playlists or podcasts to motivate you through a workout, wherever you go. 

Stay active on the road

  1. In the airport, don’t just sit around – take advantage of the waiting time between flights to get in some brisk walking up and down the terminal.
  2. Ask your host or hotel desk clerk to recommend good walking or running routes.
  3. Get flexible in your room: if the space allows, do a version of your usual stretching, tai chi, yoga or Pilates routine.
  4. Ditto for strengthening: do pushups, crunches, squats and lunges, using your own body weight for resistance.
  5. Don’t forget aerobic exercise: If it’s too cold for a walk outside, just jog or march in place in your room while you listen to music, watch TV or catch up on the phone with that cousin you haven't seen since last year.

Relax and enjoy the season

Remember to relax a little. Enjoy holiday traditions and embrace special times with friends and family members. And rather than trying to lose weight, just do your best to maintain your fitness level and make it to New Year’s Day without any new pounds showing up on the scale. That alone is something worth celebrating.