10 Simple Exercises to Do While Cooking Holiday Meals

Between shopping, decorating and gatherings with friends and family, it can be challenging to find time to work out during the holidays. But even if you don’t make it to the gym, you can still sneak in little exercise while you’re cooking (or eating)! Although working out might not feel like your highest priority, it may actually be just what you need to reduce stress and feel energized. Here are a few simple exercises you can do right in your kitchen. 

Man stretching in kitchen
  1. Wall or countertop push up
    • Stand approximately three feet from the wall and extend your arms forward, placing your hands on a wall (or counter) in front of you. Push yourself forward and back, bending your arms at a 90-degree angle. Remember to breathe and keep your back flat.
  2. Leg lifts with pulses at the counter
    • While you’re preparing pie filling or cutting vegetables at the counter, lift one leg back and up (only as high as you can keep your balance). At the highest point of your lift, pulse your leg one inch in an up-and-down motion (the pulsing should be barely noticeable). Use the counter to help keep your balance. Complete 20 pulses with each leg.
  3. Leg lifts with pulses to the side
    • Lift your leg out to the side while using the counter to help you balance. Again, pulse in one-inch increments. Be sure to stand up straight without leaning to the opposite side. Complete 20 pulses with each leg.
  4. Standing oblique crunch
    • As you wait for the rolls to rise, stand at arm’s length from the counter, extending your arms forward in a tabletop position. Lift one leg back, bend 90 degrees and crunch to the side, trying to touch your knee to your nose. Complete 10-15 crunches on each side. (Knowing you completed an ab workout will make those rolls that much more delicious!)
  5. Bicep curls
    • Stand with relaxed, bent knees and your weight of choice in one hand — a can of pumpkin filling or a gallon of milk works great! Extend your arm straight down toward your toes. Lift your weight by bending your elbow to your chest, keeping your elbow in a fixed position. Complete 10 curls on each side. (Strong biceps will help you lift that 20-pound turkey out of the oven!)
  6. Static squat
    • While you’re checking the turkey or taking out the green bean casserole, sit back into a squat position, as if you were going to sit in a chair. Hold this position for at least 20 seconds. If you desire, complete the same pulsing motion as described above — dropping the squat one inch lower, then up an inch, down an inch, up an inch … you get the idea!
  7. Calf raises
    • Burn off that pumpkin pie while you’re still at the table. Place both feet flat on the floor. Lift your heels off the ground and tense your calves. Hold for a minimum count of five. Release and repeat.
  8. Ab hold
    • Before your belly gets too full, sit up straight and flex your stomach. This isn’t just sucking in your stomach — this is flexing as if you were preparing to be pelted in the belly during a snowball fight. Hold for 30 seconds, release and repeat. Remember to breathe.
  9. Wall sits
    • After all that running around and preparation, you might just want to have a seat — but your family’s taken up all the lounge chairs! Instead of relaxing on the couch, stand about two to three feet from the wall, lean your back against it and sink down to a 90-degree seated position (or as low as you can), and hold for 30 seconds to one minute (or more). 
  10. Tricep kickbacks
    • Hold a can of green beans in each hand and bend forward slightly. Keeping your elbows in a fixed position along your sides, extend back fully and release. Complete at least 15 extensions on each side. 
Sarah Buller, LPC, CPT