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How To Stay In Shape Over The Festive Season


The pandemic has resulted in many people finding a new or renewed appreciation for fitness and exercise and the positive benefits it has on both their physical and mental wellbeing – and as we approach the festive season and look forward to a Christmas full of indulgence and celebrations, it’s the perfect chance to get active so we can enjoy all of the luxuries that Christmas to offer.    

Following another tumultuous year, we’ll all be forgiven for wanting to get a head start on the festivities and for enjoying a little early indulgence, but don’t be so quick to write off your fitness regime this December.

It’s an important time to stay focused on your health and there are plenty of ways to enjoy yourself whilst staying active and keeping yourself in check.

Steven Virtue, Fitness Development Manager at Total Fitness, shares his top tips for staying in shape over the festive period:

Set realistic goals

This is the number one thing to bear in mind when it comes to your fitness regime over Christmas. Everyone deserves a rest and the Christmas break is a great time to take some well-earned downtime.

Keep sight of your fitness goals but don’t be too hard on yourself – set yourself realistic goals with plenty of time for rest and enjoying the company of family and friends. Instead of pledging to hit the gym every single day, try and maintain a low but sustainable level of exercise.

This could be getting out for a short walk every other morning, doing half an hour of yoga at the weekend, or doing a quick 10-minute blast of HIIT to keep your body in the habit of exercising.

Keep moving

We often think of Christmas as being a time for lounging around the house and enjoying a well-earned rest.

In reality, there are always plenty of things to be doing that will keep us on our feet over the festive season – including putting up decorations, baking festive treats, deep cleaning the house before family members arrive, to name just a few.

Whilst it can be tempting to leave these activities to others, helping around the house is actually a fantastic way to burn calories without even realising it.

Studies estimate that around 10-15% of our total daily energy expenditure happens through NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) which is all those movements in your daily life that don’t feel like exercise and you do without thinking about – such as going upstairs, preparing dinner, or getting up to make a cup of tea.

So, getting stuck into the festive preparations will certainly help you to keep the pounds off this Christmas.

Little and often

Of course, planned exercise contributes to fat loss, too, but it can be hard to find time amongst preparations and entertaining family.

Can’t commit to an hour’s workout? No problem! Your body can achieve a great deal in as little as 10 minutes.

If you’re a little time-strapped and can’t make it to the gym, there remains a huge amount of workout content available online, with many personal trainers and fitness enthusiasts offering routines and circuits of varying lengths to help you stay in shape at home.

If you can only allow a short window for exercise, make it count with a HIIT session (high-intensity interval training) that targets one area of your body, then shake it up the next day with another routine that’s set to target a different muscle group. With consistency, results will come.

Optimise your workout

If you’re particularly short on time over the Christmas season, plan a more intensive workout to get the most of your workout window. Try VIIT (variable intensity interval training) to target all the muscles in your body, as well as the various energy systems; this will improve strength and endurance while burning more calories.

Whatever your preferred exercise is, there are ways to increase your gains in a shorter workout time.

For example, when practicing yoga, intersperse your poses with quick blasts of cardio, or practice poses whilst holding weights for extra burn. If you prefer strength training, try increasing your weights – this will induce muscle fatigue faster, shortening your workout time.

Workout with a friend

Combine your workouts with socialising by buddying up with a friend and commit to working out together over the holiday.

Exercising with a friend is a great way to ensure you see your fitness goals through, as you can hold each other accountable for showing up to classes or meeting for that morning walk.

It’s also a great excuse to get some more socialising booked in and have a catch-up.

Drink plenty of water

What would party season be without a festive tipple or two? Don’t deny yourself the glass of bubbly – or the steaming mulled wine – but do remember to keep up your water intake.

Drinking plenty of water not only suppresses appetite but also boosts your metabolism, helping you to digest the festive treats faster and more efficiently.

Balance your plate

Portion control is a gift this time of year. Don’t say no to the Christmas pudding altogether, simply take a smaller portion.

If temptation has been known to get the better of you in the past, be sure to fill up on protein before dessert comes around.

Protein is highly satiating and will keep you feeling fuller for longer – and of course, it’s great for growing muscle, too!

Incorporate plenty of vitamins and nutrients into your festive meals by loading up on leafy greens like brussels sprouts, cabbage and other winter vegetables.

The nutrients will give you a healthy festive glow and help replenish energy levels, so you can keep going throughout the party season.

Take Christmas walks

A leisurely winter walk is a popular tradition around Christmas time and is a great way to gently increase your heart rate whilst enjoying the company of loved ones over the festive period.

Throw on a warm coat and get your family out for some fresh air or buddy up with a friend and commit to a regular morning walk to kick start your metabolism for the day.

Walking in colder temperatures is especially effective for burning calories, as our bodies must work harder to regulate our core body temperature – bonus!

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