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Holiday Exercise: Make It a Pleasure, Not a Punishment

Most adults do not get regular physical activity. Many say it is because they do not have enough time.

This problem often worsens when the holiday season starts. For most people, it means that daily exercise slips to the bottom of a long list of things to do, such as gift shopping, party hopping, and visiting family and friends.

Take some time to learn what you can and cannot control. Then, work on the things you can control to help manage your time. Here are some ways you can stay on track with your exercise during the holidays.

Set Goals

Do not go to the gym just to burn off eggnog. Instead, set a fitness goal.

Try writing down what you want to get done from November 20 to January 20. Choose a goal like losing 5 pounds, getting stronger, or running a mile more quickly. Do not punish yourself with exercise because you ate a cookie. Make exercise a goal that is not related to the holidays.

Your goals need to be flexible and in line with your abilities, needs, values, and resources. They should be challenging, but also realistic. Measure where you are now and decide where you would like to be in January.

Write down your goal and sign it—either by yourself or with a workout partner.

Develop Rituals

Rituals are another way that you can gain control. Here are just a few that may work for you:

  • Have your gym bag packed and ready to go the night before.
  • Have your workout planned before you arrive at the gym.
  • Have a set time in the morning to work out.

Get a Workout Partner

Some people find that working out with a partner helps keep getting to the gym. Knowing that someone is waiting for you will help on the days you do not feel like getting out of bed. You could also hire a trainer for a couple of months. Money can be a powerful motivator. Think of it as a gift to yourself.

Train for an Event or Sport

Being fit can make winter activities like skiing and snowboarding more enjoyable. Knowing you need to get your body ready may also help you stick to your workouts.

If you do not already have something to train for, think about:

  • Sport-specific training—getting ready for skiing or a winter basketball league
  • 5K or 10K road race
  • Triathlon or biathlon

So, for this holiday season, find some motivation that has nothing to do with guilt.


American Heart Association

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology

Health Canada


Physical activity guidelines for Americans. US Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: Accessed June 29, 2021.

The Surgeon General's call to action to prevent and decrease overweight and obesity. US Department of Health and Human Services' Surgeon General website. Available at: Accessed June 29, 2021.

Last reviewed June 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board  Last Updated: 6/29/2021