Holiday Exercise for the Whole Family

You stuffed yourself silly with turkey and pumpkin pie, you had the obligatory stressful moment in the kitchen with your mother-in-law, you spent hours staring at the television with extended family members, and all you could think about is how difficult it will be to go back to the gym on Monday morning. Ah, the holidays!

This year, start a new family tradition: Get off the sofa and get your heart pumping. Everyone knows that exercise is therapeutic, and during the stressful holiday season — which often involves over-eating and packing on a few extra pounds — there are a variety of physical activities you can do with relatives (yes, even Grandma!) that are great for family bonding and good for your body, too. So turn of the TV and get ready to get healthy. Oprah will still be there when you get back.

Mild Climate

Sun-kissed locales like Florida and Southern California make it easy and fun to exercise all year long.

Easy

Head to the Beach: Catch a few rays and kick off your shoes. The beach is the perfect place to de-stress during family get-togethers, and walking on sand is a great way to work your leg muscles. If it's warm enough, bring your suit and dive in!

Intermediate

Bicycling: Pedal down a tranquil bike path or explore a nearby neighborhood that you've never been to before. It's a fun way for the family to get aerobic. And if your relatives are driving you crazy, ride a bit ahead of the gang for some quality time to yourself. Lots of bicycle shops offer rentals.

Difficult

Kayaking: Ride the waves and try something completely out of the ordinary. Paddle around a lake or river, or get a more intense workout in the ocean. Either way, your entire upper body will thank you. Check local beach and sports stores for kayak rentals.

Temperate Climate

Whether you're a trained equestrian or an avid rock climber, temperate areas allow you to stay fit without overheating.

Easy

Take a Walk: Stroll around the block and spy on the neighbors (perhaps their families are even more dysfunctional than yours!), or head to a park and get some fresh air. It's a simple way to get out of the house and get the blood flowing. You may even have human contact with someone who is not related to you.

Intermediate

Hiking: Check out the foliage and become one with nature. Many areas around the country have hiking trails ranging in levels from easy to difficult, so even if Aunt Bessie wants to amble through the woods while Cousin Billy insists on scaling a cliff, there's something for everyone. Trail information is often available at visitor centers and park websites.

Difficult

Horseback Riding: Dust off your cowboy boots and take a trail ride. You'll work all your major muscle groups while exploring areas that you might never see on foot. Check your phone book and the internet for horse ranches and farms that offer trail rides.

Cold Climate

If you live in a winter wonderland, don't let the chill leave you sedentary. Take advantage of all the exhilarating activities that go hand in hand with a cold climate.

Easy

Build a Snowman: A fun, light workout for the whole family is right outside your front door. Sing "Frosty the Snowman" so the neighbors can hear and dig in. All that bending and standing is great for the waistline. Start a snowball fight and boost the cardio benefits (bonus: it's a safe way to relieve pent up aggression towards some of your more "difficult" family members).

Intermediate

Ice Skating: Add a little grace to your holiday and head to a frozen lake or local ice rink. You'll increase balance and improve core strength. Plus, watching less agile relatives slip and slide on the ice will provide comic relief.

Difficult

Snowshoeing: Strap on some snowshoes for a truly rigorous workout-it might be cold out but you'll be sweating. Never been? Bond with the kids and learn together. You might even see a deer or other interesting wildlife. Many parks and outdoor recreation areas have snowshoe trails and equipment rentals.

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