Eat, drink, be merry – and exercise

Fitness may be the last thing on your mind as you kick back and relax this festive season. But keeping a light routine going is well worth the effort.

You slogged hard throughout the year and you’re tired, stressed and desperate for a well-deserved break. The festive holiday season can’t come soon enough – a glorious week to forget about routines, switch off your phone, unwind, sleep in late and party even later.

Right now, exercise might seem like a hassle. After all, there’s always the New Year to worry about getting fit and shaking off those excess kilos, right?

Well, doing no exercise at all might not be the best idea. If you’re worried about being the only eager beaver getting active while on holiday, it’s worth noting that there’s a definite trend towards healthier holidays.

Since one of the biggest barriers to exercise is lack of time, having a break from your normal routine can provide an ideal opportunity to maintain physical activity.

Before you glue yourself to the couch, consider that fitness experts maintain that people start losing fitness in about two weeks if they completely stop exercising. Once lost, it takes almost three times as long to recondition as it takes to detrain your body – one more reason why it’s a good idea to keep moving!

A few tips on exercising over the holidays:

  • Make a plan to stay fit during the holiday, even before it starts.
  • Accept that holidaying will probably affect your exercise programme to some degree; then make adjustments. If you usually do a scheduled group-exercise class, go for a brisk walk or hike instead. Exercising with a skipping rope and resistance band might also work for you, and both are easy to take along if you’re travelling.
  • Be realistic – plan exercise workouts that are shorter than usual. A 20-minute workout is much better than no exercise at all.
  • Sometimes it’s easier and more achievable to aim for short, regular bouts of exercise in the day instead of one long, gruelling workout that leaves you feeling pooped.
  • Focus on fun and variety. Combine elements of your normal exercise routine with enjoyable holiday exercise. Better still, plan sessions the whole family can enjoy, like walking, hiking outdoors, dancing or playing active games with the children.
  • Bouts of high-intensity interval training – alternating quick bursts of activity at maximum speed with slower paced activities –burn the most calories in the minimum amount of time. If you’re nowhere near a gym, jog, sprint, do jumping jacks or exercise with a skipping rope.
  • Be flexible – choose activities you can do easily at a moment's notice, e.g. stationary lunges, squats, calf raises, abdominal crunches and push ups.
  • Try to schedule some exercise first thing in the morning, before or just after breakfast. You’ll have the smug satisfaction that you’ve been active, plus it will kick-start your metabolism for the rest of the day and hopefully strengthen your determination to resist the temptations of all those calorie-laden delights.

How to get creative with holiday exercise:
Staying motivated over the holidays might be easier if you come up with fun, creative ways to exercise. A few tips:

  • Devise new holiday traditions involving physical activity. Instead of hosting a boozy Christmas cocktail party, why not have a sledding or ice-skating shindig?
  • If you’re staying home, coax family members to do a walking tour to see the Christmas lights, holiday decorations or other festive events.
  • Challenge your family to a snow-shovelling contest and build a snowman afterwards.
  • Hit the dance floor for an hour or two instead of swigging endless alcoholic drinks. Just one hour of bopping to the beat could work off 287 calories.
  • Buy family Christmas gifts that encourage activity, like footballs, frisbees, and bikes.
  • Undertake a family expedition to find and chop down your own Christmas tree or haul a sled uphill a few times with your children for a workout that equals a jog.
  • Multi-task. Combine exercise with holiday chores such as preparing food, making tea or washing dishes. Do 10 leg raises to each side and to the rear, half push-ups on the edge of the counter, or calf raises while you wait for the kettle to boil.
  • Lastly, if you can’t face dragging yourself or anyone else outdoors, there are plenty of indoor alternatives. Give exercise DVDs or game console a go – they might be just the solution you’re looking for.