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Don't Take a Holiday From Exercise

SATURDAY, Nov. 27 (HealthDay News) -- If you don't have time to get to the gym during the holidays, you can incorporate exercise into your daily activities, an expert says.

"It's important to maintain your fitness as much as possible during the holidays, but don't worry if you're too busy to go to the gym. Many holiday activities offer ways to get the 30 minutes of daily moderate physical activity that your body needs to help fight off many forms of cancer and other diseases," Karen Basen-Engquist, a professor in the behavioral science department at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, said in a center news release.

She offered the following tips for incorporating walking into your shopping trips:

Park far from the mall or store entrance. If you take the train or bus, get off a stop or two early. When you're inside the mall or store, use the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. If possible, carry your purchases instead of using a shopping cart. This will help boost your heart rate and strengthen your muscles.

"For walking to count as exercise, you should be a little out of breath and feel your heart beating a little faster. You should be able to talk in short sentences, but not sing holiday songs," Basen-Engquist said.

You can get an aerobic workout while preparing the house for guests and cleaning up after they leave. Focus on chores that use large muscle groups, such as the legs and back. These include vacuuming, mopping, scrubbing, gardening and making multiple trips upstairs to put away laundry or holiday decorations.

"The most important thing is to get your heart rate up at a consistent level. You should sustain activity for at least 10 minutes without stopping," Basen-Engquist said.

She also offered tips for exercise while traveling:

  • While waiting for a plane, train or bus, take a brisk walk around the terminal.
  • If you're driving, add physical activity to gas and bathroom breaks. For example, toss a Frisbee, kick a ball, or take a vigorous walk.
  • Take advantage of gyms and exercise classes offered by many hotels. If these aren't available, use an exercise DVD or explore the local area by going for a walk, jog or hike.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers a guide to physical activity.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, news release, November 2010

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