How To Stay Fit During The Holidays
Realistically speaking, your goals this time of year should be to fend off the dreaded holiday bulge (the average weight gain is about a pound), hold on to your hard-won endurance (women can lose up to 20 percent of their cardiovascular fitness if they quit exercising cold-turkey between Thanksgiving and New Year's), and put a dent in the inevitable stress of the season (so the stuff that's supposed to be fun actually will be).
Fortunately, you can accomplish all those things (and even lose a few pounds!)—and you don't need to carve out a huge amount of time to do it. Adding short bursts of intense effort can fire up your metabolism and fast-track results. In an Australian study, women who cranked out high-intensity interval training three days a week for 20 minutes (for 15 weeks) shed more fat than those who exercised for 40 minutes at a lower intensity over the same period.
And quickies aren't just good for your waistline: Studies have suggested that small doses of regular exercise—we're talking 10 to 20 minutes at a time—can result in temporary mood improvement or anxiety reduction. So just imagine how much mall stress you'll be spared! Exercise raises levels of serotonin, a feel-good hormone, while reducing your heart rate, blood pressure, and stress hormone levels. "You may think a workout is the last thing you have time for during the holidays, but you'll actually feel calmer and more confident if you can fit it in," says Jasper Smits, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University.
With our uberefficient plan, created by New York City personal trainer Hannah Davis, you can do just that. The routine uses supersets—back-to-back exercises that work opposing muscle groups—which torch calories and tone all over in less than half an hour. And don't think you're cutting corners by slashing your gym time: A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that participants burned just as many calories in a 30-minute superset circuit (like ours) as they did in a longer weight-training workout, and even more calories after they finished exercising. Ready to get yourself some of that? Let's go!
THE WORKOUT: Hot-for-the-Holidays Fitness Plan
Incinerate extra calories with one of these 20-minute cardio interval sessions as often as your crazy schedule permits.
On the road or at home. . .
No equipment or gym required! Do as many reps of each exercise as you can in one minute, moving from one to the next without stopping. Rest 90 seconds, then repeat the circuit a total of three or four times.
1. Jumping Jacks
2. Squat Jumps
3. Side-to-Side Hops: Keeping your knees slightly bent and feet together, imagine you're jumping back and forth over a line on the floor.
4. Burpees: Squat to place your hands on the ground, jump back into a plank position, and do a pushup. Reverse the move to return to standing, jumping off the ground to finish each rep.
At the gym. . .
Try this interval workout on any cardio machine. To up the effort, increase the incline, resistance, or speed.
0-5 minutes: Warmup (easy effort—you can sing at this pace)
5-7 minutes: Moderate effort (you can carry on a conversation)
7-10 minutes: Hard effort (you can speak a few words at a time)
10-12 minutes: Moderate effort
12-14 minutes: Recovery (easy effort)
14-16 minutes: Very hard effort (you're huffing and puffing too much to talk)
16-20 minutes: Cooldown (easy effort)