Not many of us count calories over the Christmas period, which is all well and good, but how much fun exercise do we need to balance up the extra calories? We were provided with a skating session in return for sharing this information. Sadly due to family illness we did not get the chance to burn our 486 calories. Maybe next week we can go and burn 170 with a winter walk instead. Simply Health tell us
Research has shown that many people living in the UK are prone to gaining weight during winter 1. This perhaps comes as no surprise to a country that collectively diets every January2. For many, Christmas is a time to indulge. Rich foods fill our cupboards and the cold weather keeps us indoors and sedentary. Consequently, Christmas weight gain becomes hard to avoid. So whilst it's nice to enjoy the season as a 'one-off' time of year, it helps to take some precautionary measures.
Although it's always good to maintain a balanced diet, staying active over Christmas can go a long way in keeping you fit and healthy and will help to burn off any treats you do indulge in. Despite popular opinion, winter is full of opportunity to get outside and get active. Here's the logic behind each activity:
Santa runs have become a popular way of giving to charity whilst getting active. Not only is running excellent for your physical health, it's good for the mind too. Researchers say that it releases 'feel-good' hormones called endocannabinoids3. Running also burns up calories and fat, as well as speeding up your metabolism in the long-term.
Ice skating is a good form of cardio exercise that improves balance and coordination. The movements work out small stabiliser muscles that don't normally get exercised in day-to-day life. It is particularly good for the muscles around the hips, knees and ankles. Continuous ice skating will also get your heart racing. This helps speed up the metabolism and burn calories4.
For many, Christmas is a time where family comes together. So why not make use of your extra team mates in a friendly game of football? Running, sprinting and using bursts of energy is great for engaging the cardiovascular system5. This reduces the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and other chronic diseases5. You never know, if you really enjoy it, it may become a regular event.
Winter wonderland walks
A gentle walk after a big meal is good way to aid digestion. It also helps to avoid spikes in blood sugar levels, which can decrease cardiovascular risk6. Plus, walking at 3.5mph burns calories quickly; around 259 per hour in fact. Doing this regularly has been shown to reduce the risk of strokes, asthma and type two diabetes1. And with so many beautiful winter landscapes to choose from, Christmas is the perfect time to give it a go.
Charity 'Christmas swims' take place across the UK annually, providing a fantastic opportunity to get active in a whole new way. Whether you're dressed as Santa or not, swimming is an effective form of aerobic exercise. Its most notable benefit is the low-impact it has on the body. You can burn calories and strengthen muscles while only bearing about ten per cent of your own weight. The rest is supported by water7.
Successful sledding means walking uphill, which is a good form of intense exercise. It increases the heart rate and tones the lower body muscles. Your hamstrings, for example, need to be actively contracted in order to push yourself upwards. But don't forget: what goes up, must come down!
Indulging at Christmas doesn't have to mean giving up on healthy living altogether. Life is all about moderation and getting the balance right. So enjoy treats but do your bit to work them off too. It'll make for a very merry Christmas, and a much happier New Year.