In the UK we have a growing interest in health and wellbeing: the fact we want to understand why things are good for us (rather than just mindlessly ‘banning’ something), and our recognition that being active is an essential, highly rewarding and fun part of life, which benefits both mind and body.
Of course, as the Christmas countdown continues, some of our healthy ‘rules’ can go out the window – especially as it’s estimated that the average Brit consumes a whopping 7,000 calories on Christmas Day alone, and will gain 6lbs between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day (eek!).
But feasting is part of the festive fun, and life is too short to never indulge. Ensuring you keep active, though – and don’t spend the whole of the holidays moulded to the sofa in a sea of chocolate wrappers – will help offset the calorific damage.
Here are five key Christmas Calorie Kings – and what you’d need to do to burn them off (bearing in mind that the exact amount of calories burned will depend on your weight, muscle mass and exercise intensity levels, of course) …
One mince pie – approx 200 kcals
Burn it off – brisk one-hour walk
One of the great things about walking is that although it can feel like more of a pleasure than exercise, it still works wonders for health and fitness – and gets you out in the fresh air.
“A family walk would make a wonderful new tradition,” says ‘happiness personal trainer’ Mollie Millington.
“It gets people out of the house and lets the kids run around a bit. Walking is also a fairly easy exercise that most of the family can do together. Another option would be bowling or ice-skating.”
A glass of bucks fizz – approx 100 kcals
Burn it off – 10 minutes of rope-skipping or a ‘living room workout’
Can’t afford or get to the gym? No fancy exercise equipment? No excuse! Get creative and do a quick workout at home. Skipping with a rope is a fantastic way to get your heart rate up – it gets you breathless in no time – or you could achieve similar results by doing a short session of burpees, star jumps and some bodyweight exercises.
“These are all great ideas. I have more than 100 quickie workouts on my website that are primarily bodyweight, last 15 minutes, and are free,” says Millington. “You could also make these short bursts of exercise friendly competitions with family members (another new family tradition!).”
Six Quality Street chocolates – approx 260 kcals
Burn it off – half an hour dancing
Go on: turn the TV off for half an hour and crank up the festive tunes! Whether you’re by yourself, with the stuffy in-laws or have the whole clan round for the holidays, a bit of a living room boogie will work wonders for offsetting the seasonal stress and sluggishness.
It might feel a bit daft at first if you’re not used to letting your hair down, but what have you got to lose? (Well, those extra festive calories for a start…) And, do you know what – we bet you’ll be laughing by the end.
Big Christmas dinner with all the trimmings – 1,500 kcals
Burn it off – two hours of running (or lots of regular exercise!)
It is possible to burn 1,500 calories in one workout, but attempting that isn’t really a good idea unless you’re already very active and used to that level of intensity. “I wouldn't recommend someone just go for a two-hour run without any training,” says Millington.
A better approach, for most, would be to aim to do regular, moderate-to-vigorous exercise. Millington suggests “an hour-long friendly football match in the park with mates – where you put effort into sprinting to the ball – an indoor cycling class, bootcamp class or a parkrun.”
“Another option to get heart rate up is manual labour – shovelling snow, gardening, clearing out the garage or vacuuming the house,” she adds.
Christmas pudding with custard and/or brandy butter – approx 900 kcals
Burn it off – one-hour fast swim
Low-impact, and therefore gentle on joints, accessible (most people will have access to a public pool, which may also offer discounts or ‘exercise on prescription’ schemes for eligible users) and often suitable for those living with disabilities or chronic pain conditions, swimming really is a fantastic form of exercise.
If you can’t manage a fast, one-hour swim, simply break it down to regular, manageable chunks – you’ll still be reaping the benefits of a full-body workout.
Are you prone to piling on the pounds at Christmas? Tell us how you plan to stay active and keep the weight off…