Exercise tips to beat festive flab

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John Bailey

John BaileyHands-on Health’s personal trainer John Bailey offers you a comprehensive set of tips for keeping the exercise going over the festive season – and some ideas for new year resolutions!

A Christmas blow-out is not an excuse to give up on looking and feeling good. The statistics are frightening. The latest research reveals we put on an average of five pounds each over the festive period, guzzling three times the recommended maximum calories in just one day.

There’s good evidence that people put on weight over the winter. The more overweight you are, the more you tend to put on. And the most worrying aspect of this seasonal weight gain is that the pounds tend to stay on.

The three main reasons that people put on weight in the winter are lack of physical activity, comfort eating and over-indulging at Christmas.

Cold weather and shorter days make it harder to exercise outdoors, so it’s easy not to do any exercise over winter. If you’re not outside as much, there’s more time and temptation to reach into the kitchen cupboard for high-calorie sweet snacks, such as biscuits, chocolates and cakes. Then of course there are the festivities that surround Christmas. What used to be a couple of days of parties and over-eating now seems, for some, to be six weeks of over-doing it, and under-doing it on the exercise front.

So,why not try to…


Move more

When the outside temperature drops, it’s easy to give up on outdoor exercise. In winter, we stop doing calorie-burning outdoor activities like short walks and gardening. But reducing the amount of physical activity you do is one of the biggest contributors to winter weight gain.

Cold weather and shorter days don’t mean you have to abandon exercise completely. Instead, rearrange your schedule to fit in what you can. You don’t need formal exercise to burn calories.


A brisk walk can be revitalising after being indoors with the central heating on, and it’ll also help boost your circulation. Put on some warm clothes and walk or jog around the neighbourhood. Walking is a great exercise and stress buster. Just a mile’s brisk flat walk or 3/4 of a mile walking up a hill (e.g. to Exmouth’s Orcombe Point) will help burn those empty calories from the booze. The key is to get moving. Walking can also cut the risk of heart disease and stroke, lowers blood pressure and can reduce cholesterol. The best thing of all is that it’s free.


Why not pop along to watch or participate in the annual Exmouth Christmas Day Swim. Celebrate the event by being brave enough to take the plunge and go for a swim in the waters just off Exmouth beach. If you don’t fancy braving the cold then pop on a warm coat and join the crowds, near the clock  tower at 11am!

Charity Fun Run

The battle against the post-Christmas blues begins early in Exmouth with a Boxing Day Fun Run. The Rotary Club of Exmouth Raleigh is staging the event on Saturday, December 26, in aid of the British Heart Foundation and Rotary International. Feel better about yourself with a fun jog / run and also help out these worthy charities. Registration for the event, which starts at 11am, takes place at Elizabeth Hall from 10.15am. The course runs from the clock tower to the Geoneedle, above Maer Rocks, and back again. A warm-up with free, fun aerobics starts at 10.40am. There will be prizes for those who gain the most sponsorship, for teams — of up to four people — and for entrants in fancy dress. For those without sponsorship, entry is £3.50 for adults and £2 for under 16s, who must be accompanied by an adult. Entry is free of charge for those who have £10 sponsorship.

Home Workout

If you’d rather stay at home, buy some X-Box, PS3, Wii fitness / sports, dance or workout DVDs. There are some pretty effective games available, so prepare yourself first with a quick few minute warm-up / limber exercises while increasing the fun and reducing embarrassment!

Warm-up / Stretch

  • A quick limber-up/stretch for just 2-3 mins, for example, turn your neck side to side slowly a dozen times, carefully seeking a greater range of movement to relax stiffness.
  • Shrug your shoulders together tightly – and release quickly, repeat six times. This will release tension in the neck and prevent or relieve headaches.
  • Rotate both arms around in windmill fashion six times and now wrap both arms around your shoulders (as if you were cold and are now warming yourself up), stretch out both arms straight and twist at the hips to warm-up and stretch your shoulders, upper body and waist.
  • Touch your toes, keeping your back straight by bending at the hips and not ‘rounding’ your back, Slowly lower and return for four times and then repeat and hold for a count of five seconds. These are great to stretch your back and behind your legs, especially if you know you are going to be sitting down for large amounts of time.


Working Out

If you’re working out for 30 minutes and doing only cardiovascular exercise then you’re burning fat for a minute. But within five minutes of starting resistance exercise with weights or using your own bodyweight you’ll burn through the stored sugar in the muscle and get straight into fat burning. If you do resistance training with your bodyweight / dumbells etc first, then go into cardiovascular exercise, you’ll burn more fat. By working your biggest muscle groups (legs, back, chest) you will burn many more calories in a shorter time.


  • three sets of 12-15 free squats, reach up and press your arms up at the top (with dumbells if you have any)
  • three sets of 10 lunges (each leg alternating)
  • three sets of 12 press-ups
  • three sets of basic sit-ups / crunches (Legs elevated to protect back)
  • tricep dips between chairs and then…
  • cardio for 20 minutes like running, a fast walk, cycle, or hill climb and…you’ll burn up to 400 calories.

Finally, something to bear in mind for new year resolutions after the festive fun…


Roast turkey, roast potatoes, stuffing, bread sauce, roast parsnips, boiled carrots,  Brussels sprouts, gravy, cranberry sauce, pork sausages and bacon.

The damage: 956 calories.

The payback: Sign up for a TRX class and you’ll see that festive weight drop off. It is a 45-minute class that gets results. You exercise your whole body. Do it right, and tone your muscles and burn up to 1500 calories.


The damage: 394 calories.

The payback: Try a Kettlebell class. They are cast iron weights that look like a ball with a handle. A class combines resistance training, which works with weights and cardiovascular training to give your heart and lungs an excellent workout. It’s dynamic. You’ll do a set of exercises with the kettlebells; using your major muscles whilst performing high repetitions / timed sets, so there is a real crossover between resistance and cardiovascular work. The secret is that your body continues to burn fat at a faster rate after each session to recover. You can burn between 400 and 600 calories.


The damage: 249 calories.

The payback: Swimming is one of the best exercises you can do. There’s a good bit of resistance in swimming as you’re pulling against the resistance in the water. It’s also a fantastic cardiovascular exercise. There’s no risk of damage to the joints either as you’re weightless in the water. It’s a great release for tension so beneficial for mental health too. It builds up muscle strength and stamina. You can burn up to 900 calories an hour as a fast swimmer but even if you swim slower and for less time you’ll notice results.


The damage: 368 calories.

The payback: Our Circuit training session gets results. The first 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, like running, your body burns stored sugar in the muscle. Continuous exercise at a high intensity uses up your sugar and switches over to utilise stored fat to burn as fuel, all while you workout to the music!


The damage: 245 calories.

The payback: Studies show that even five minutes outside in the fresh air walking is beneficial to your mental health. The key is to be as active as you can in your daily life.


At our Exmouth eco-clinic, we offer a multi-disciplinary team approach involving acupuncture, emotional freedom technique, massage therapies, McTimoney chiropractic, myofascial release, nutrition, reflexology, circuit training, corrective exercise, Pilates, Tai Chi, TRX, yoga and more.