How to sneak exercise into holiday plans

The holidays create extra duties and extra calories, but U.S. experts suggest exercise be added to everyone's holiday to-do list.

Karen Basen-Engquist, a professor in The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, suggests in addition to the usual recommendations to incorporate daily exercise such as using the lunch break to take brisk walk, scheduling workouts in advance and enlisting a friend or partner to walk with you during the holidays, break up 30 minutes of daily exercise into three 10-minute or two 15-minute chunks.

For example, park far from the entrance or if taking the bus or train, get off a stop or two early to add some extra walking.

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

When shopping, carry purchases instead of using a shopping cart because this increases heart pumping and strengthens muscles, Basen-Engquist says.

Cleaning the house by vacuuming, mopping, scrubbing, gardening and even taking multiple trips upstairs to put away laundry or holiday decorations all count as physical activity, Basen-Engquist says.

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