Christmas means pressies, seasonal goodwill… and calories! Beat the over-indulgence with these quick and simple 15-minute exercise tips
With all the preparation and partying it’s so easy to make the excuse that we can’t find time to stay in shape at Christmas. But surely we all can find 15 minutes in our schedule for a bit of exercise? That’s all it takes, says Julie Robinson.
We chatted to Julie, the founder of Move it or Lose it – a fitness business that devises exercise programmes to encourage older people to keep active in later life – for her tips on preparing for a healthier Christmas.
Julie told us: “Ask someone how they are and I bet nine times out of 10 they say: ‘I’m crazy busy.’ Everyone seems to be time poor and even more so as we approach the run-up to Christmas. For most of us the thing that drops to the bottom of the ‘to do’ list is exercise, yet it should stay right at the top – not just to stop us piling on the pounds but also for our health, mental wellbeing and energy levels.”
Here’s Julie’s top five easy exercises which you can do at home in only 5 minutes. Do each exercise for up to 1 minute then as you improve turn this into a circuit by repeating the sequence twice, then three times so it takes 15 minutes.
1 Stair climbing
Run up and down stairs at a fast pace non-stop for one minute, it will boost your heart rate and as it’s weight-bearing it will load your bones too. If you find it easy then try carrying something heavy (evenly loaded carrier bags full of books or tins of beans will do fine).
Unless we do some strengthening exercises we lose muscle and that means we have less calorie-burning dense tissue which leads to a reduction in your metabolic rate. Stronger, denser muscles burn more calories even when you’re at rest.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart (or slightly wider) and push your hips back as if you’re sitting into an imaginary chair. Lower down so your thighs are as parallel to the floor as possible, with your knees over your ankles (don’t let them go past your toes). Press your weight into your heels then push up to bring yourself back to the starting position. Work up gradually to squat for 30 seconds then build it up to one minute.
3 Ropeless skipping
Imagine holding a skipping rope then rotate the ‘rope’ forward as if you’re skipping. Add in the footwork, you can hop from one foot to the other or jump lifting both feet simultaneously. Remember to keep the arms turning (you can alternate circling forward and backward) and keep going for up to one minute.
4 The plank
The plank works 100 per cent of your abdominal muscles compared to 64 per cent for sit-ups. You’re also less likely to strain your neck, which is common when doing sit-ups; even the US army have banned them from their exercise regimes!
On the floor, get into a push-up position then bend your elbows at 90° and rest your weight on your forearms. Your elbows should be directly beneath your shoulders, and your body should form a straight line from your head to your feet. Hold the position for as long as you can up to one minute (and remember not to hold your breath).
5 Lateral raises
Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms by your sides holding weights in each hand. You could start with bottles of water or tins of soup then build up to using hand weights. Raise your arms up and out to the side to shoulder level then slowly lower them back down and repeat. Don’t be tempted to let your arms drop suddenly, try to resist gravity. Keep going for up to one minute.
Build up on the intensity and time gradually and check with your doctor if you have any health problems before starting an exercise programme.