Have you been skipping the gym lately? No judgment: So you overdid it on gingerbread lattes at Starbucks or grabbed too many fast-food meals after marathon shopping trips? No biggie—as long as you stay active in other ways.
“A lot of people skip workouts completely when the holidays get busy and promise they’ll exercise in January,” says Mike Donavanik, a personal trainer in Los Angeles. “But it’s that much harder to motivate when you’ve skipped the gym for two-plus weeks.” While you don’t have to maintain your exact same exercise routine, keeping your body in motion will help you balance out the indulgences and start the year strong. To help you do that on the quick, we’ve rounded up a dozen research-backed ways to get more out of your workouts and improve your metabolism to boot.
Start the day with exercise
Before you scarf down meal number one, get moving: Working out first thing in the morning can help you lose 20 percent more fat than exercising after breakfast, according to a 2013 study in the British Journal of Nutrition. For a quick sweat session, try this fat-burning HIIT workout that includes challenging moves like squat jumps and lunges, but can still be done in the comfort of your living room. The best part? It takes just 10 minutes to complete.
Move on up
Here’s a thought: Take a 10-minute break from your busy day of present wrapping or online shopping to walk up and down the stairs in your house or apartment—you’ll say goodbye to about 100 calories, says Donavanik. You’ll also feel less tense and cramped up. Want to maximize your calorie burning potential? Run up and down those stairs instead and you’ll zap the same number of calories in half the time.
Keep it short
Usually work out for 30 minutes? Exercise for a third of that—but go hard! “An intense 10 minutes jump-starts your metabolic furnace and equals about 20 or 30 minutes at a moderate intensity,” says Jordan Metzl, MD, author of Dr. Jordan Metzl’s Workout Prescription. If you can’t spare the full 10 minutes, you can sweat for even less time: According to a 2013 study from Colorado State University, exercising for just 2 ½ minutes at a high intensity (think running or biking sprints) can help you burn 200 more calories over the rest of the day.
Take a long winter’s nap
If you’re actively watching your weight this season, know this: Research from the University of Chicago found that dieters lost 55% less fat when they slept for 5½ hours than when they slept for 8½ hours. To settle into slumber more easily, avoid lit screens, food and, yes, booze for a full two hours before bed, and fill your plate with foods that help you fall asleep earlier in the night (think cherries, jasmine rice, and bananas).
Going for a jog before a night out is a great way to crush calories, but if you strength train, you’ll continue to fry fat post-workout. To maximize the afterburn, do “weight-bearing exercises involving the most muscle mass,” such as mountain climbers, push-ups, and lunges, advises Len Kravitz, PhD, program coordinator of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.
Take a walk
Stroll around the block for 15 minutes and you’ll torch nearly three times as many calories as you would by sitting for the same amount of time, says a new study in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health. Plus, walking after a big holiday meal will help aid digestion. In the mood for a longer stroll? These three 40-minute walking workouts from celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak will help you burn even more calories.
Pick up the pace
“Speed is key—move, walk, or run a little faster and you’ll burn more total calories,” says Kravitz. In fact, changing up your walking pace quickly and frequently can help you melt up to 20% more calories, compared with maintaining a constant speed, according to a 2015 study from The Ohio State University. Try speeding up for 30 seconds, then walking at a comfy pace for three minutes.
Yes, you can dance your way slim! Grooving hard while celebrating with pals can blast even more calories than running, swimming, or cycling, per recent research from the University of Brighton in England. Dancing for an hour can burn anywhere from 200 and 600 calories, while also helping to build strength, increase flexibility, and even slow the aging process.
This winter, just say no to snowblowers: “Shovel your driveway and maybe your neighbor’s, too—because holiday cheer—and you’ll burn more than 400 calories in an hour,” says Donavanik.
Try on Tabata
For this lightning-fast Tabata workout, pick four total-body moves (plank jacks, jump squats, etc.). Do one for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, then do it again. Continue to the next move and repeat. The routine is just four minutes long—and you’ll torch 13½ calories a minute and double your calorie burn for half an hour afterward, per research from Auburn University in Alabama.
Shake a leg
Enjoying a holiday movie binge? During commercials, stand up, pace and fidget. Mayo Clinic research shows that doing this can crush an extra 350 calories over the course of a day. Also good: This can help counteract the negative effects of sitting down for long periods of time.
Don’t forget to laugh often
This season is all about joy. Find yours and share some laughs with your family and friends. Doing so for 10 to 15 minutes can burn as many as 40 calories. Imagine an entire day filled with giggles—the good times and calorie blasting will surely add up.