Thanksgiving is supposed to be a holiday welcomed by all, serving as an excuse to slow down and spend quality time with family, but some revelers enjoy the turkey gluttony more than others, and they have the calorie counters in their collective subconscious to thank for that.
Turkey Day comes but once a year and is unlikely to sabotage even the strictest diet, but just in case you’re already worrying about the calories you absorbed the fourth Thursday of November, we’ve rounded up some at-home exercises you can do to burn the holiday’s calories and silence the pesky voices inside your head.
What many don’t realize is that some of the most effective exercises require little to no equipment, are free of cost, and can be done from the comfort of one’s home — even in your pajamas. No need to have snagged expensive equipment during Black Friday shopping when you can get in a cost-free workout and then enjoy the laziness of a post-holiday, stress-free day.
Here are seven exercises to fight the Thanksgiving bloat and prepare for the continuing indulgent holiday season ahead.
We’ll start with one of the hardest but most effective home exercises you can do to burn off all the pumpkin pie you’re due to ingest (or have already). Burpees are a killer cardio exercise that require absolutely no equipment, just good old-fashioned willpower, and according to Active.com, 60 sets of 10 burpees can burp up to 300 calories, depending on your weight and fitness.
Burpees, also called squat thrusts, combine pushups and squat jumps, resulting in a calorie burn that is higher than most other functional exercises. If incorporating burpees into a longer cardio or strength circuit, it is best to fit them into 30-60 second intervals only because they are so challenging, but they can also be done on their own. For high-intensity interval training, do 30-60 seconds of burpees, rest for 30-60 seconds, and then repeat for 10 or more minutes. You’ll only need a good pair of tennis shoes to perform this workout, but you’ll also need to listen to your body and take rests when needed.
So, ready to get started? Here’s how: First, stand with feet about hip width apart and squat to the floor. Place your hands on the floor in front of you, and then jump your feet out behind you so that you’re in a pushup position, on the hands and toes with the body in a straight line. Lower your body to the floor to do a pushup and then return your feet to the squat position as fast as possible. Immediately jump straight up in the air and then start the process over again.
Continue jumping the feet out and in as quickly as you can for about 30-60 seconds, completing as many sets as you can.
2. Jumping jacks
Next up is an exercise that everyone knows but many underestimate. Contrary to popular belief, jumping jacks aren’t only reserved for those 10 years old and younger — they also provide a calorie-killing workout for adults, too. The great thing about jumping jacks is that almost everyone knows how to do them. They are perfect for men and women, young and old, the physically fit or just beginning an exercise regimen. They are great for exercisers’ heart and lungs and they can burn up to 100 calories in 10 minutes, depending on the exerciser’s size.
Before doing your jumping jacks, make sure you have good tennis shoes, and then see how many minutes you can go. A word of precaution before you proceed: The exercise is known as a high-impact workout, so look for a sturdy floor and watch out for your joints. Get jumpin’!
3. Jump rope
Speaking of jumping, we can’t forget to mention the jump rope, because it is another example of a good cardio exercise that many neglect to take advantage of. Unlike burpees and jumping jacks, jumping rope does require one piece of equipment — can you guess what? — but we promise that a $10 rope is well worth the investment.
Jumping rope is more than a recreational activity you did with your friends at recess: It can burn up to 220 calories in 20 minutes — if you can last that long. The great thing about this exercise is that, once again, you can do it anywhere.
Jumping rope does require practice (and good shoes), but once exercisers get the hang of turning the rope with the wrists and jumping high enough to clear it, it’s a fairly easy skill to pick up. There are also many variations you can do, including jumping on one foot, alternating feet, crossing the feet, jumping with high knees, and double-turning the rope if you’re especially ambitious. If you’re just beginning, try jumping for 30 seconds, take a rest while walking in place, and then repeat the cycle. Jumping rope is not only effective — it’s fun!
4. Stairs walking/jogging
This is another exercise that most people have almost no excuse not to do, because as long as you have a set of stairs in your house, you’re golden. And if you don’t, odds are you can easily find some in a park, your old high school football stadium, or even a parking garage.
The great thing about stairs walking and jogging is you can adapt the exercise to easily fit your abilities. After putting on a good pair of tennis shoes, warm up slowly by walking up and down the stairs for five minutes. Next, sprint to the top of the stairs (or go as fast you can handle) and jog back down. Repeat this cycle for 15-20 minutes or until you need a break and then cool down by walking up and down the steps for another five minutes.
Stairs pack a good workout, and there is a reason many avoid them — they’re hard, but the most effective exercises usually are. Staircases can blast up to 150 calories in 15 minutes and can easily be done before your guests arrive for Thanksgiving, or just after they leave.
5. Mountain climbers
Next up are mountain climbers, another exercise that is equipment free — and no, you don’t even need a mountain. The floor will serve as your imaginary mountain.
This exercise strengthens your core and improves your endurance all while building strength. To perform the exercise, start in a pushup position on your hands and toes, and then bring the right knee in toward the chest, resting the foot on the floor. Jump up and switch feet in the air, bringing your left foot forward and right foot back.
Continue alternating your feet as fast as you safely can for 30-60 seconds, rest, and then repeat the cycle for as many times as you can, imagining the number of holiday cookies you are burning with each jump forward.
6. Squat jumps
At No 6. are squat jumps, and they are performed exactly as they sound. Squat jumps are a plyometric exercise, meaning they are an exercise involving repeated rapid stretching and contracting of muscles. They effectively raise an exerciser’s heart rate, burn calories, and build strength all at the same time. No special skills are needed for the exercise, but once again, a good pair of shoes is recommended, and exercisers should note that this is another high-impact exercise.
To do a squat jump, stand up straight and then get into a squatting position, keeping your hips back, back straight, and head forward. Once you’ve achieved this position, jump upwards and stretch your hands as high as they will go as your feet leave the floor. Land in the same position you started in, swing your arms back and immediately repeat the squat, jump, squat cycle. Once you get a hang of it, the exercise should be a constant fluid motion, and to do high-intensity interval training, you should perform the exercise for 30-60 seconds, rest for 30-60 seconds and then repeat for 10 minutes or until you need a rest.
Lastly, running. (You knew this one was coming.) Despite some people’s disdain for it, running is known as one of the best all-body workouts, and it requires no gym membership, no equipment — just some running shoes. And no excuses: We all know how to run. Motivating oneself to go out for a run pre- or post-turkey is no doubt difficult, but it still is a surefire way to burn excess calories and improve endurance. Many Americans also participate in the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving, which is a fun 5K or 10K race that is offered all over the nation on Thanksgiving morning — a complete listing of events can be found here.
Even if you’re a reveler who doesn’t want to take part in an organized race, taking a walk or run after Thanksgiving is not only a good way to start out the indulgent holiday season on the right foot (no pun intended) but also a good way to strengthen your turkey legs.
Now, you have no excuse to start moving. Ease into the exercises and even feel free to combine them into a total fitness circuit.