By -

Small changes in habits can make a big difference to your wellbeing around Christmas time.

Isn’t it funny how many of us start new diets or exercise regimes after the Christmas holiday season? Of the 79 per cent of Australians who made New Year’s resolutions in 2020, more than half of them wanted to lose weight or ramp up their fitness levels. That’s according to a study by Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA).

Relaxing and enjoying your time with loved ones is so important during the holiday season, but it doesn’t mean you must write off your hard-earned fitness and health in the process. Too many excess calories from food and alcohol leave you feeling tired and lethargic. On the other hand, a few small changes – with room for indulgences – can help you start 2022 feeling energised and refreshed. Here’s how to do it.

The month of maintenance 

Many people think summer is synonymous with blowing the calorie budget at family dinners and indulgent Christmas parties. However, it can be helpful to reframe December as a “maintenance month”. Unless you have a specific plan in place, and you can be strict with it, this may not be the best time to gain or lose weight. The most important thing to remember is balance – enjoy a sweet snack here and there but don’t use it as an excuse to binge on the entire Christmas stocking of sweets. Likewise, make sure you keep up regular exercise that you enjoy.

Walk, walk, walk 

Research by the Harvard School of Public Health in 2019 found that walking for an hour or running for 15 minutes can reduce the risk of major depression by 26 per cent. Add those mental health benefits to the physical benefits of increased metabolism, better digestion, stronger muscles, flexibility, and blood flow, and walking on holiday seems like a no-brainer. It’s low impact and can be done pretty much anywhere. Instead of waiting around for a bus or train, why not head out on foot? You will avoid the stress of traffic and crowded public transport, too.

Hit the dance floor

Dancefloors are back after COVID-19 restrictions eased in NSW, and through the festive season you’re likely to come across one or two. The good news is dancing is a great way to burn calories. You can burn between 300-800 calories during one hour of dancing – that’s almost as good as attending a high intensity gym class (depending how intense your moves are). Dancing helps to burn the extra liquid calories you may get from alcohol and as you sweat, you’re more likely to reach for water to rehydrate. Just make sure you do drink water to avoid a hellish hangover the next morning. Ordering soda water at the bar is a great way to keep your hands busy and still convince your friends you are drinking with them.

Mental health is as important as physical health

After two difficult pandemic years, a growth and positive mindset will be essential for 2022. Human minds and bodies love routine, so a regular exercise schedule can help you stay positive and engage in your career and relationships. The more often this repetition occurs, the neurological wiring becomes stronger, and the brain perceives the environment to be safer. This makes you more productive focusing on tasks inside and out of the gym.

Quality of quantity

Be active, but in a smart way. Many of us are unable to stick to our regular fitness regimen during the holiday season. That’s okay. Workouts don’t always have to happen only at the gym – we learned that through lockdown. If you’ve been regularly doing a pre-work training session, a yoga class or going out for a run with a colleague at lunchtimes, then stick with it. December, more than most months, is the time when we all need a bit more motivation to work out. By participating in something with a friend, you are far more likely to do it and feel better as a result. Eat, drink, stay active, rest and most importantly — be kind to yourself!