The Healthy Holiday Shopping Workout

'Tis the season for cookies, cakes ... and cardio.

The holidays are a time of celebration, and my how we celebrate! We eat, we drink ... and then we feel too guilty to work out.

By mid-December, there's been at least one office holiday party. That means 150 calories per beer, 80 calories per glass of red wine and about 400 calories for the chips and dips. And you can't forget the turkey; 133 calories for a small portion of white meat, 160 for dark meat and stuffing -- up to 400 calories. If you slather it in gravy, add 300 calories.

There's grandma's mince pie at 320 calories and a giant mug of eggnog, another 400 calories. Oh, and don't forget the candy canes at 60 calories each.

Most of us know when to stop eating when we're at home; if we're really hungry or really full, our body tells us. But when we're at a buffet or a party, most people continue to eat as long as other people are doing the same. And while we all have good intentions during holiday time, it seems our system of measuring how much we eat is based on not visibly exceeding what the rest of the group is eating.

Turning Your Shopping Into a Workout

Because the season of giving is also a season of eating, it's important to maintain physical activity during this time. It's tempting to ditch workouts as the days fill up with holiday preparations, but now more than ever, you need to keep your body moving to burn off the extra calories.

Exercise will help you deal with added stress and give you energy for everything you need to accomplish. It will also help keep you in great spirits and in a cheerful mood from the heightened levels of endorphins released in the blood stream during and after exercise.

More important, it will also help you avoid the "yuletide Five" -- the 5 pounds everyone seems to gain between Christmas and New Year's.

If it seems as if your best efforts to exercise and eat healthy are sabotaged by holiday parties and gatherings with family and friends, have no fear. You can counter your calorie intake by doing your holiday shopping!

Just as you plan to get the best gift at the best price, plan your shopping day for the best calorie burn with these simple tips:

Eat Before You Shop

Eating before you hit the mall will calm you down and give your body time to digest your food. By doing this you will have energy to shop and the concentration you need to make rational decisions while shopping. You will also avoid the rush of trying to find something quick to eat so that you can continue shopping.

We typically eat what we like -- not what we need -- when rushing, which leads to choosing foods that are high in fat and calories.

Keep It Tight

As you stand in line to pay for your purchases, or wait for a parking space at the far end of the lot, tighten your abs or glutes for three sets.

Its OK, nobody's watching.

Bottoms Up

As you reach for items on low shelves, use this as a great opportunity to get a few squats in. The great thing about the squat is that it works so many muscles. Every muscle in your lower body is worked.

Cash and Carry

Pay for your purchases and carry your bags. With a bag in each hand you can do arm curls until you get to the next store. Be sure not to hurt your back. Once your hands are full, this is a great time to walk briskly to the car, drop off the bags and start again.

Other Tips

If you are shopping for more than two hours:

Sit down and take a five minute break with a coffee, tea or nonalcoholic drink. Other healthy options include a small snack such as a mini muffin or a small milkshake, or share a sandwich or bagel. This provides the body with a chance to energize and reflect.

Keep drinking water (water fountain, bottled water).

Gaining weight is one holiday tradition that no one wants to keep. Make a decision to do everything you can to stay active and eat healthy while not depriving yourself of all the fun this season.

Medical exercise specialist Ralf Hennig is the author of "Four Way Burn." He is gold-certified by the American Council on Exercise and designated a master trainer by IDEA. He is also a trainer to former president Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Clinton. He is the founder of Dynamic Fitness in Bedford, N.Y. His Web site can be found at