Treat Yourself This Thanksgiving with ZERO Guilt

Treat Yourself This Thanksgiving with ZERO Guilt

Updated August 2020

[This article was written with Dr. Mia Finkelston, Medical Director and family physician on Amwell]

During the holidays, not many people want to spend their time exercising. After all, Thanksgiving is a time for family, giving thanks and most importantly – food. This Thanksgiving, enjoy your favorite sides and treats without the guilt. How? Dr. Mia Finkelston created four five-minute circuits that are quick, easy, and will help compensate for all of that delicious turkey.

These exercises work your whole body, allowing you to work out more efficiently, burn more calories, and spend more time with your family.

Burpee Challenge

Nearly every personal trainer across the country would agree that burpees are the most efficient exercise to work your whole body. Burpees use every muscle group and allow you to get a cardio work out at the same time.

  • Burpees: 30 seconds
  • Rest for 30 seconds
  • Repeat x5

Fun Fact: Burpees are a cardio and weight-bearing workout, which is great for your bones! Research suggests weight-bearing exercises are actually better for long-term bone health than non-weight-bearing exercises. In fact, any exercise that includes jumping will help with bone strength due to the landing.

Leg Legend

The legs have many large muscle groups: quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, etc. Whenever you repetitively use a large muscle group, you’re working the heart. Your heart rate will be higher when exercising your legs than when exercising your arms, simply because of the greater demand caused by the larger muscles in the legs. Squats: 30 seconds

  • Squats: 30 seconds
  • Lunges: 30 seconds
  • Standing Glute Raises: 30 seconds each leg (1 minute total)
  • 30-second break
  • Repeat
  • Last 30 seconds: jump squats AS MANY AS YOU CAN

Why end with as many reps as possible? You are able to burn fat at a higher rate and put all of that leftover energy to use. It also strengthens your mind: without a definitive stopping point, you’ll work harder than you ever imagined which helps build your mental toughness.

Your Personal Stairmaster

Stairs are readily available to most people and are an amazing way to strengthen your legs. This circuit is an intense glute workout that really gets your heart pumping and is structured to get as many reps as possible in a short amount of time.

  • Take one step at a time
  • Skip steps
  • Step up two steps, step down one step
  • Face the left and go up the steps sideways, 1 step at a time
  • Face the right and go up the steps sideways, 1 step at a time
  • Repeat until 5 minutes are up

*For a more moderate workout, reduce the time or try walking. Both options will get your heart rate up while simultaneously giving you a great leg workout.

Ab Crusher

Strong abdominal muscles are important for many reasons, including posture, balance, injury prevention, and protection. “I tell patients regularly that the key to a healthy back is a healthy front. By keeping your abs strong, you are not only helping with balance, flexibility, and strength, but you’re also helping maintain a healthy back, especially as you get older,” says Dr. Mia.

Plank with variations

  • Plank regular: 1 minute
  • Plank w/ knee to same side elbow, switch sides every rep: 30 seconds (Figure 1)
  • Plank w/ knee to opposite side elbow, switch sides every rep: 30 seconds (Figure 2)
  • Break 1 minute

Planks can potentially cause some shoulder pain. Therefore, to finish the circuit we have also provided an easier alternative to keep those abs burning!

Option 1
  • Regular Plank: 1 minute
  • Right-side Plank: 30 seconds (Figure 3)
  • Left-side Plank: 30 seconds (Figure 3)
Option 2
  • Penguins: 30 seconds - make sure to keep your upper back off of the ground! (Figure 4)
  • Russian twists: 1 minute - use weight for a challenge! (Figure 5)
  • Toe touches: 30 seconds (Figure 6)


Figure 1 Figure 2 Figure 3 
Figure 4 Figure 5 Figure 6


None of these workouts catch your interest? A friendly game of football or a family walk are also great exercise options to get you moving just enough to fully enjoy that thanksgiving feast.

Now is the time to try telemedicine!

Amwell can help you feel better faster. Register now for access to our online doctors 24 hours a day.