As we approach the end of the year, Christmas is not far away. Unfortunately, in terms of fitness, Christmas can be a potential minefield. Alcohol always seems to be flowing, the weather is cold, dark and icy (making you less likely to want to leave the comfort of your own home to exercise), high calorie treats are everywhere you turn and parties seem to be happening every other day. However, with the right advice you can still maintain a fitness routine during the festive period. That’s why today I am going to be looking back at some of my previous Christmas posts and outlining how you can keep yourself fighting fit this Christmas.
1) KEEP YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM STRONG
One unpleasant fact about Christmas time is that your risk of developing certain health conditions is much greater than during other times of the year. Two particular health conditions that develop around Christmas are the common cold and the flu. The common cold is a relatively mild condition which may make you feel slightly unwell but is not life threatening. The flu (or influenza) is a much more serious condition which will often make you unable to leave your bed for a few days. Whilst there is currently no cure for these viral infections you can make your body well equipped to fight them by eating some immune system boosting foods and consuming adequate levels of vitamin C and vitamin D.
2) BOOST YOUR MOOD
Another unpleasant condition that rears its head during the winter months is seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a form of depression caused by the lack of sunlight during the winter months which affects 7% of the UK population. It strikes between the months of September and April and is particularly strong between December and February. Fortunately, in most cases SAD can be treated with light therapy (a form of treatment which involves the use of a specially designed light box for two to three hours a day). Eating mood boosting foods and doing some exercise can also elevate your mood during the winter months.
3) MAKE SURE YOU SLEEP WELL
Sleep is important throughout the year. It helps you concentrate during the day, stimulates growth (particularly in young children) and promotes good memory. However, in the run up to Christmas it is much more difficult to get adequate amounts of sleep. Your free time is often taken up by family commitments, Christmas parties and Christmas shopping. As a result sleep will often be compromised. To ensure that you do get enough sleep during the festive period try and get a couple of extra hours on the days where you have some free time. This is an excellent way to compensate for the busy days when your sleep is sacrificed.
4) FIT IN SOME EXERCISE
When it comes to Christmas, exercise often takes a back seat. Not only is your time more limited but the reduced daylight hours and cold weather reduce your actual motivation to workout. Fortunately, you still have options when it comes to Christmas exercise. If you do not have much time for exercise over the festive period try and get up extra early two or three times per week and fit in a morning workout. If you normally exercise outside but are finding the weather too cold then get a month’s pass at your local (and more importantly warm) gym. Alternatively, get an exercise DVD or even a Wii Fit and workout in the warmth and comfort of your own home. If temperature is not an issue but you are finding the snow and ice make it too hazardous to do your normal outdoor exercises then be innovative and try some winter exercises. Sledding, snowball fights and ice skating are all designed for winter weather. Plus, they are fun activites that can be performed with family and friends and they burn a fair few calories too.
5) EAT THE RIGHT FOODS
Healthy eating is just as difficult as getting regular exercise over Christmas with mince pies, cakes and candy being on offer almost everywhere you look. However, with the increased risk of the common cold and flu during this time of year, healthy eating is more important than ever. Fortunately, there are some strategies you can use to ensure that your diet does not completely fall apart as the year draws to a close. Starting the day right with a healthy winter breakfast (such as eggs, natural yoghurt or fruit) will ensure that you get some nutritious foods even if the rest of your day does not go to plan. Having a bag of dried fruit and nuts close to hand can give you a quick, healthy and nutritious snack that can be substituted for Christmas candy.
On Christmas day there are numerous ways you can add a healthy kick to Christmas dinner. For your Christmas dinner starter why not try a healthy homemade soup? For your main Christmas dinner piling on the vegetables and making some homemade gravy can create a highly nutritious meal. Then to finish why not offer some alternative Christmas dinner desserts such as fruit salad or natural fruit smoothies?
6) PLAN FOR CHRISTMAS PARTIES
Christmas parties are inevitable at this time of year. Whilst it is good to relax and enjoy yourself after a long, hard year, too much partying can have a negative impact on your health. However, if you put a little thought and planning into the parties you attend over the festive period you can come out of December with your health intact. So by all means enjoy a few Christmas drinks over the festive period but try and moderate your alcohol intake at one or two of the parties. If you do have a particularly heavy party one night then try and counteract the effects by doing some exercise the next day. By following these tips you can enjoy the Christmas parties you attend without completely derailing your fitness goals.
7) BUY PRESENTS WITH A FITNESS THEME
One of the best ways to get yourself in the mood to exercise over Christmas is to motivate those around you to do the same. This can be achieved by purchasing Christmas presents with a fitness theme for your friends and family. If you have a friend who always says they will come jogging with you but keeps making excuses then get them a brand new set of trainers so that they have nowhere to hide. If you are buying for a gadget lover then the Gripmaster and the Powerball are two excellent fitness gadgets which build wrist strength. If you are buying for a younger boy then a football is both an excellent gift and a great way to initiate a Christmas kick around for the whole family.
Christmas is probably the most difficult time of year when it comes to achieving your fitness goals. The weather, the foods around you and the social occasions can all seem like they are working directly against your healthy lifestyle. It is almost inevitable that your fitness levels will drop during the festive period. However, with the tips in this article you can ensure that you maintain some level of fitness over Christmas and head into January raring to go.