As we approach Christmas and reflect back on the unprecedented year that was 2020, we realise there are some good things to have come out of the year of Covid. One of those is certainly the nation’s renewed appreciation for the important role that health and fitness plays in our lives, not only for keeping our bodies sound during the health crisis, but our minds, too.
Following a trying year, we’ll all be forgiven for wanting to get a head start on the festivities and for enjoying a little early indulgence, but don’t be so quick to write December out of your fitness regime altogether. It’s an important time to stay focused on your health and there are plenty of ways to indulge and keep your fitness in check – even if you can’t get to the gym.
Steven Virtue, fitness content and programming manager at Total Fitness, shares his top tips for staying in shape over the festive period.
We often think of Christmas as being a time for lounging about the house with family and enjoying a well-earned rest. In reality, there’s always plenty to be doing that keeps us on our feet at Christmas time – putting up decorations, baking festive treats, deep cleaning before the mother-in-law arrives – to name a few. Whilst it can be tempting to leave these activities to others, helping around the house is actually a fantastic way to burn calories without even realising it.
Studies estimate that around 10-15% of our total daily energy expenditure happens through NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) which is all those movements in your daily life that don’t feel like exercise and you do without thinking about – such as going upstairs, preparing dinner, or getting up to make a cup of tea. So getting stuck into the festive preparations will certainly help you to keep the extra pounds off this Christmas.
Little and often
Of course, planned exercise contributes to fat loss, too, but it can be hard to find time amongst preparations and entertaining family. Can’t commit to an hour’s workout? No problem! Your body can achieve a great deal in as little as 10 minutes. Whilst gyms have been shut due to Covid-19, a wave of new workout content has become available online, with many personal trainers and fitness enthusiasts offering routines and circuits of varying lengths to help you stay in shape at home. If you can only allow a short window for exercise, make it count with a HIIT session (high intensity interval training) that targets one area of your body, then shake it up the next day with another routine that’s set to target a different muscle group. With consistency results will come.
Drink plenty of water
What would party season be without a festive tipple or two? Don’t deny yourself the glass of bubbly – or the steaming mulled wine – but do remember to keep up your water intake. Drinking plenty of water not only supresses appetite, but also boosts your metabolism, helping you to digest the festive treats faster and more efficiently.
Balance your plate
Portion control is a gift this time of year. Don’t say no to the Christmas pudding altogether, simply take a smaller portion. If temptation has been known to get the better of you in the past, be sure fill up on protein before dessert comes around. Protein is highly satiating and will keep you feeling fuller for longer – and of course it’s great for growing muscle, too. Incorporate plenty of vitamins and nutrients into your festive meals by loading up on leafy greens like brussels sprouts, cabbage and other winter vegetables. The nutrients will give you a healthy festive glow and help replenish energy levels, so you can keep going throughout party season.
Take Christmas walks
A leisurely winter walk is a popular tradition around Christmas time and is a great way to gently increase your heart rate whilst enjoying the company of loved ones over the festive period. Throw on a warm coat and get your family out for some fresh air or buddy up with a friend and commit to a regular morning walk to kick start your metabolism for the day. Walking in colder temperatures is especially effective for burning calories, as our bodies must work harder to regulate our core body temperature – bonus!