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Prepping for the holidays can be fun and festive - but it's also time-consuming. The hours in your week usually spent exercising may well instead be spent shopping, wrapping, and baking. Add to that some tempting holiday treats, and you've got a recipe for diet disaster. Instead of throwing things to the wind this year, try these quick but effective exercises - all easy to fit into your jam-packed schedule.
"Milk Jug" Squats
When putting away groceries, grab a full, one-gallon container of milk or juice in each hand, then do six to eight squats (keep a straight back). It should feel like you're sitting down in an invisible chair, then standing up (if it helps, put a chair behind you but don't sit down in it). Do at least two sets.
Gift Wrap Runs
Wrap two gifts, then walk or run up and down your stairs three times or jog in place for two minutes. Repeat five times or until you're done packaging your presents.
While you're waiting for the cookies to bake, do five push-ups (knees on the floor for beginners; plank position for advanced exercisers). Then lie on your back with four dish towels (each folded in half) under your head, knees bent, and feet shoulder-width apart. Raise your hips off the floor about six to eight inches, then slowly lower them. Repeat five times.
Soup Can Curls
While cooking, take an average-size soup can in each hand. Face your palms forward and "attach" your elbow to your waist. Then slowly curl one arm at a time and return it to the straight, hanging position. Do one set of 10 repetitions for each arm.
If your holiday culminates in one big family dinner, plan to take a 45-minute post-meal walk with your sister-in-law, say. Here's why the "walking pact" is a good idea: For about four hours after a high-fat meal (such as a typical holiday dinner) your arteries look just like those of a person with heart disease. That's because your vessels are trying to expand to accommodate increased blood flow, but the fat in your bloodstream is making it harder for your arteries to flex. An August 2006 study from Indiana University shows that a 45-minute post-meal walk helps reverse oxidative stress.