Alleviate your holiday stress in 10 minutes or less

’Tis the season for jammed parking lots, sold-out merchandise and malls so busy they make you claustrophobic. Bah humbug, right? Thankfully, exercise has been shown to have a buffering effect on our brain’s ability to cope with a stressful stimulus.

Try two rounds of these three fun and festive exercises to de-stress, re-energize and maybe even create a little room for more eggnog and sugar cookies.

Reindeer Push-ups (8 to 10 repetitions)

Target: chest, front shoulders, core, quadriceps

Depending on your current level of upper body strength, this exercise can be performed either from your knees (beginner) or toes (more advanced).

  • Begin in a push-up starting position.
  • Pull your hips up toward the ceiling, shift your weight back toward your heels, push your chest toward the floor and straighten your arms, into what is known as Downward Facing Dog position in yoga.
  • From here, push your hips toward the floor (keeping them off the ground), shifting your weight forward into your hands, as you bring your chest up. At the same time, bend your elbows and sink down into a push-up position, so that your chest comes within 2 in (5 cm) of the ground, allowing your upper body to rock forward, in between your hands.
  • Once at the bottom of this position, reverse the movement by pulling your hips back up toward the ceiling, shifting your weight from your hands back into your heels, pushing yourself away from the floor and dropping your chest back toward the floor, ending up in starting position.

Snow Angels (15 repetitions)

Target: lower back, glutes, upper back, rear shoulders

    • Lie face down on the ground, with your arms extended in front of you and legs extended behind you.
    • Keeping your chin down in a neutral position, raise your arms, chest and legs off the floor, as high as you can, as if trying to balance on your hips.
    • Once you’ve reached the highest possible position, fan your arms out to your sides, eventually bringing your hands down beside your pockets while keeping your arms as straight as possible.
    • At the same time, part your legs as wide as possible, keeping them straight. Once you have achieved this upside down “Y” shape with your body, return your arms and legs to starting position 

and lower your arms, legs and torso to the ground.

Menorah Lunges (8 to 10 repetitions per leg)

Target: quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, rear shoulders, core

  • Begin in a push-up starting position (on hands and toes) with feet touching and hands together, so that you have a narrow base.
  • Step your left foot as far forward as you can beside your left hand. Once you feel stable, raise your arms to chest height out in front of you or above your head if you are feeling especially balanced. Pause for a count of 3 seconds, and then lower your hands and arms to starting position. Step your left foot back beside your right, and then complete the same motion with your left leg.

Less intense: Beginners may want to do this exercise first from their hands and knees.