Burn Off Holiday Calories!

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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Member Comments

Pushing car out of ditch. Shoveling snow. Dressing a toddler in a snowsuit. Racing through the airport to make your connection. Report
Pushing car out of ditch. Shoveling snow. Dressing a toddler in a snowsuit. Racing through the airport to make your connection. Report
Nice! Thank you! Report
We should not be encouraging people to hand wash dishes. You actually use up more water that way. This is especially important if you live in a desert. Otherwise, neat list. Report
Mowing grass is listed (which we haven't had done in ages) but shoveling snow is not? C'mon it's December. Report
Very good!
Love the very real humor bits! Report
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! Report
interesting article, i learned a lot.. Report
I printed this out to stick on the fridge! Wow - very useful! I'll be doing lots of these today. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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! Report
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. Report
Ha! I have 4 dogs! I thought they just helped me burn calories taking them Walkees! Thanks for a fun article. Report
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. Report


About The Author

Nicole Nichols
Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.