The holiday season is off to a rollicking start, and even the muddiest elf is sometimes forced to skip a workout due to family and other festive end-of-year obligations. But don’t worry—the Couch Potato Grinch doesn’t have to steal all the fitness you’ve worked so hard to build over the past year. In fact, some of your favorite wintertime activities might actually be workouts in disguise. Plus, these are so fun you won’t have any trouble convincing family and friends to join you.
You don’t have to be Wayne Gretzky to get a great workout on the ice. An hour of skating can burn as many as 400 calories—and will train muscles that don’t often get a workout when you’re running, swimming or cycling. Your groin, glutes, and hips all work together to give you a strong push with every stride, and your core keeps you stable as you glide gracefully across the rink.
Although you may not feel like you’re working up a sweat on a frosty cold slope, skiing can actually be a killer interval workout. Nearly every muscle in your lower body—from the tiny ones in your feet to giants like your quads—helps to propel you down the mountain. Just when you’re starting to feel exhausted, you get to rest for a few minutes on the lift as you head back to the top to do it all over again. Plus, some locations in the Rockies add a little altitude training to the mix, so your winter vacation could be building blood volume and lung capacity even while you’re recuperating in the hot tub.
Checking out holiday decorations
Whether you live in a big city with festive displays in every store window or a quiet neighborhood filled with Clark Griswolds, a quick jaunt around your neighborhood can be a fun way to celebrate and circulate. Find the brightest displays in your area, then get a group of friends together and plan a route for an easy run. Or, bring the whole family out for a walk—towing little ones in a wagon, pushing them in a stroller, or giving them piggy back rides just adds to the burn.
Lighting up the dance floor
Go ahead and strut your stuff! Even if your dancing style is more Elaine Benes than Beyonce, shaking a tailfeather at a holiday party can count as a cardio session (there’s a reason people love Zumba, after all). Bonus points if you’re bold enough to hit the floor without a bunch of cocktails under your belt.