5 Heart-Healthy Holiday Activities for Families

Senior couple on couch with kid in lap looking and laughing with ipad, christmas tree in background
Written by Risa Schulman
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6 minutes

While the holiday season is deemed the most wonderful time of the year, let’s be honest: it can be stressful to navigate the many personalities and needs of each of your family members while they’re all together under one roof. With a full house and lots of free time to potentially get on each other’s nerves, getting out of the house to make holiday memories together can help remedy some of the stress which the holiday season inevitably brings.

We’ve put together a list of activities that not only create opportunities for your family to enjoy some quality time together, but also bring positive, heart-healthy benefits to all. Whether you’re staying home for the holidays or planning to enjoy a family holiday vacation, consider adding in some of these heart-healthy activities to keep you on track with your health goals.

How to Stay Active Over the Holidays

Indoor Holiday Family Activities

Stroll and See The Neighborhood Lights

Bundle up, make a thermos of hot cocoa, and get the whole family out for an evening stroll around the neighborhood. A great way to get in some light family-friendly exercise, this activity packs even more health benefits after a big holiday meal, as moving your body shortly after eating is a great way to jumpstart your metabolism.

If your neighborhood isn’t big on holiday decorating or you're traveling and staying in a hotel away from the suburbs, pile in the car and drive to a neighborhood known for their light displays. Then, park the car and simply start strolling. You can do a quick Google search to find the best local neighborhood Christmas light displays in the city you’re in. And don’t forget about the light displays at zoos, botanical gardens, and museums if you’re in a metropolitan area!

Play in the Snow

If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere or travel to somewhere where you can enjoy a White Christmas, throw on your snow gear and take the family outside for some playtime in the snow together. Not just for kids, playing in the snow, building snowmen, and even having a snowball fight are great ways to get in some exercise while having fun and enjoying being outside.

Simply trekking through the snow is a great workout, while adding play in makes it an even better activity! Not only does getting active in the snow burn a ton of calories, being outside and breathing fresh air is great for strengthening immune systems and, if the sun is shining, you’ll get to absorb some Vitamin D. Overall, with exercise being a natural stress reliever, getting the family outside in the snow gives everyone the opportunity to reset, play, and connect with each other while getting their blood pumping in ways staying indoors simply doesn’t.

Get Outside to Play Some Family Games

On the other hand, if the sun is shining and the ground is dry, head to your neighborhood park and set up your favorite yard game or organize a family game of football, basketball, or kickball. Want to raise the stakes? Place a harmless bet - losers do the dishes!

With adults tending to do less competitive activities than their younger counterparts, there’s a huge health benefit many are missing out on. Why not take the lead and inspire the older members of your family to bring some healthy activity into their day?

Maybe you have some family members who are resistant to getting involved and playing? Don’t worry, these helpful tips can help you inspire your loved ones to get active and live a healthier life.

Visit a Museum

When was the last time your family took a trip to the local museum together? Or perhaps there’s a new museum or exhibit you’ve yet to explore together. A family trip to an art, natural history, science, or kids museum is a great full-day activity that keeps the whole family engaged. Many museums host special events and exhibits, and some provide discounts during the holiday season, knowing that families will be looking for things to do to get out of the house. Plus, you’ll get exercise from all the walking you’ll do while expanding your mind and sparking your imagination - all great health benefits!

If you’ll be traveling, plan ahead by searching online for the museums in the city you’ll be visiting to discover what the current exhibits are and which museums are family friendly. Whether you’re in town or visiting somewhere new, museums are a great way to explore a city and enjoy the best of what it has to offer.

Go Bowling

Believe it or not, this 4,000 year old sport is a great way to get some indoor exercise. A competitive sport that all ages can understand and easily participate in, you don’t have to be a pro to enjoy the added health benefits of the game.

While you’re busy trying to dominate the scoreboard (or just keep your ball out of the gutter), you’ll barely realize how many steps you’re taking and calories you’re burning from the constant movement! Additionally, the swinging of your arm to throw the ball stretches and flexes the tendons, muscles, and joints in your arm. Plus, even if you’re not so great at the game, the hand-eye coordination required to throw your ball and aim for the pins is a great mental exercise, stimulating mental alertness and tactical skills.

Escape to the Mountains

Not only perfect destinations to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, mountain towns are a great place to tap into a healthier lifestyle and slow things down. If you’re a family of skiers or snowboarders, enjoying time at a ski resort allows everyone to have some fun, gain new skills, and get in some serious exercise. If your family is inexperienced, you can sign-up for group lessons and bond over trying new things and conquering the day - while hopefully laughing with each other as you fall and get back up, of course!

Those who live at high altitude year-round enjoy a myriad of health benefits - from promoting weight loss, to lowering risks of cardiovascular diseases and heart attacks. Plus, the fresh mountain air gives your body the chance to breathe in oxygen free of the gasses and air pollutants found in city air. Even visiting the mountains for a week will give your body the opportunity to enjoy some of these health benefits, especially if you get active while you’re there!

Volunteer for a Cause

It’s simple - doing good can be good for your health! With many in need and dangerously cold weather in cities with harsh winters, the holidays are one of the most popular times of the year to get out and do some good. By getting the whole family involved, you’ll be making a positive difference in your community together. While connecting with other volunteers and gaining perspective from interacting with those in need, family members of all ages build important values like empathy, compassion, and respect.

If you have particular family values you often discuss, like taking care of the planet or supporting social equity, volunteering is a great way to show family members and children that you’re dedicated to these values by putting them in action. Additionally, from sorting cans at the food shelter to picking up trash at the park, volunteering frequently requires a good amount of physical activity, which packs additional health benefits.

Enjoy a Heart-Healthy Holiday

With the kids home from school, family members in town visiting, and hopefully some much needed time off of work, the holiday season is a great time to connect with your family while staying active. Whether you are adding in some activities that get your blood pumping, or taking advantage of having some stress-relieving fun, the important thing is that you enjoy the company of your loved ones and take care of yourself and your health. Be sure to plan in some extra time to rest and relax while you recharge during the busy holiday season.

Written by:

Risa Schulman

Ph.D

Risa Schulman, Ph.D. has been helping companies and people build wellness for 25 years.

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