The holiday season is already in full swing as the week of thanksgiving gets underway. Meanwhile, department stores and online shopping websites everywhere are coloring their brand with red, green and white. Gingerbread houses and candy canes are going up for display in houses across the country.

While many people consider the holidays a time when sticking to a strict diet is particularly challenging, they need not be a season void of physical activity. Though pie and sweets abound, so too does family interaction. With the latter comes the opportunity for group games, sports and other fun competitions.

To provide more specific instruction for her readers, Gretchen Reynolds interviewed a few fitness experts to get some practical tips on how people can facilitate some extra movement in the year’s final five weeks. She published their ideas in an article this week for The New York Times, writing:

One way to keep everyone active is to “gamify” your time with family and friends, said Dr. Pamela Peeke, a triathlete, adjunct professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and spokeswoman on exercise and nutrition for the American College of Sports Medicine.

“I hate the ‘E’ word: exercise,” she said. “Instead, I tell people, turn everyday activities into games and playing. Get everyone involved. Don’t say, ‘Hey, everybody, let’s exercise,’ Say, ‘Hey, who wants to play tag?’” 

Adding a light layer of competition may motivate people who otherwise would be resistant, she said. “See who can rake a pile of leaves the fastest or how many snow angels people can make in one minute or how much snow they can shovel in 30 seconds. This approach is what I call stealth high-intensity-interval family fun. People get so caught up in the game, they don’t realize they are working out.” 

“Kids love the ‘sit-stand-high-five’ routine,” Dr. Peeke said. Position two chairs to face each other. Sit. Stand. High five. Repeat. “For them, that’s not exercise. It’s playing. But that kind of motion” — rising rapidly and sinking back into a chair, repeatedly — “is a workout.”

Or inchworm with the youngsters or any willing adults, inebriated or otherwise, she said. This classic calisthenic involves standing with your feet about hip-width apart, hinging forward at the hips, placing your hands on the ground, palms flat, and walking your hands forward until your chest is parallel to the ground. Then walk your hands back toward your feet, stand, and dare any pint-size relatives to try — just try! — to inchworm faster than you.

Later on in the story, another expert suggested jump rope as a healthy option for familial bonding. For sports fans, an annual football game in the front yard may already be on the agenda. Whatever the selection, staying active should be on everyone’s wish list this year.

To read Reynold’s full writeup, click here.