It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be one of the most stressful — once you’ve factored in the hours-long car journeys, last-minute present shopping and the disruption to your everyday routine.
Christmas can also be a time when people slip out of their fitness habits, but it doesn’t need to be like that. You can still enjoy yourself, eat delicious food and drink and keep your fitness goals on track.
With this Fitness First guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about exercise and the festive period, including some fun seasonal workouts to get you in the spirit!
Should you exercise over Christmas?
Maintaining an exercise routine during the Christmas season can be a great idea, but this isn’t something that you have to stick to.
If you feel that you want to work out over Christmas, then great! But if you want to take a few days or a couple of weeks off to fully enjoy the celebrations, this isn’t going to completely derail all of the positive work you’ve been doing.
However, if you do decide to squeeze in some workouts here and there, it can help with:
1. Stress management
The festive season, while joyful, can also bring stress due to the demands of present shopping, event planning, and family gatherings. But, incorporating regular exercise into your routine can be a powerful stress management tool.
Physical activity stimulates the release of endorphins and dopamine, which are natural mood boosters. These ‘feel-good’ chemicals help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, allowing you to enjoy the festivities with a calmer and more positive mindset. Whether it's a brisk walk, a yoga session, or a quick workout, taking time for yourself to move your body can significantly enhance your overall well-being during the holidays.
2. Energy boost
From decorating to socialising with friends and everything in between, Christmas can be a whirlwind of activities. Having enough energy to get through is essential to keep up with the pace and make the most of this special time of year.
Exercise is a fantastic way to boost your energy levels — the NHS suggests doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity a week. When you engage in physical activity, your body becomes more efficient at delivering oxygen and nutrients to your cells, which results in increased energy and vitality. You'll find yourself feeling more alert, focused, and ready to fully get into the swing of the festivities.
3. Immune support
Christmas often coincides with the cold and flu season. Staying active can help fortify your immune system, making it less likely for you to fall ill during the festive celebrations.
Regular exercise helps to increase the production of antibodies and white blood cells, which are key players in your body's defence against illness. This means you're better equipped to ward off common seasonal bugs and enjoy a healthier, illness-free holiday season (hopefully!).
4. Taking time for yourself
Amid all the holiday obligations and the hustle and bustle, taking some time for yourself and prioritising self-care is crucial.
Making time for exercise allows you to recharge and have a moment of personal reflection — something that you can do just for yourself in a season where it’s all about spending time with others. It's a way to invest in your well-being, ensuring that you have the physical and mental stamina to handle the demands of the season. Even a short HIIT workout, yoga class or a leisurely walk can provide a much-needed break from the chaos.
How can you find time to exercise during the busy Christmas season?
Finding time to exercise during the hectic festive season can sometimes be a challenge, but with a little bit of planning and a dash of creativity, it’s entirely possible!
Here are some simple tips to help you make time for exercise amid all the hustle and bustle:
- Schedule your workouts — Make exercise a planned part of your day by scheduling it in advance. Treat your workout sessions as non-negotiables that you do every day. When you have a designated time slot for exercise on your calendar, you're more likely to prioritise it and fit it around your daily schedule.
- Morning workouts – Before the excitement of the day starts, consider beginning your day with a morning workout. While it may be challenging to wake up early, morning exercise can boost your energy levels and set a positive tone for the rest of the day. Plus, it frees up your evenings for Christmas movies.
- Shorter, intense workouts — If you're pressed for time, opt for shorter yet intense workouts like HIIT. These workouts can be completed in as little as 20-30 minutes but offer significant benefits in terms of calorie burn and building muscle strength.
- Home workouts — Can't make it to the gym? No problem. Home workouts are a convenient alternative. There are loads of different resources, such as fitness apps like Apple Fitness+ and YouTube channels offering guided home workout routines that require little to no equipment. This allows you to exercise in the comfort of your own home, on your schedule.
- Stay flexible — Be flexible with your exercise routine and expectations. This time of year is a unique time, and it's okay if you can't stick to your regular workout plan. Adapt to your circumstances by finding shorter or alternative workouts that can easily fit into your schedule.
Are there any unique festive workouts you can do?
If you’re staying active during the festive period, why not add some Christmas cheer and put a twist on your regular workouts?
- Jingle bell jogging — Incorporate jingle bells into your jogging or running routine. Strap them to your shoes or clothing, and let the sound of jingling bells keep you motivated as you run through your house or a park. Or, if actual jingle bells aren’t really your thing, try jogging to the song instead. It’ll be Christmas in no time!
- Festive yoga or pilates — This time of year can be stressful, so consider unwinding with a festive-themed yoga or pilates session. Many studios and online platforms offer special classes with poses and movements inspired by the season. These workouts not only help improve your flexibility and core strength but also provide a sense of tranquillity and mindfulness during the busy holiday season.
- Sleight ride sprints — Find a nearby hill and imagine you're one of Santa's reindeer dashing up a snowy slope. Sprint up the hill as fast as you can, and then take a leisurely walk or jog back down for recovery. Repeating this process provides an effective cardio workout while putting you in the festive spirit.
- Reindeer circuit race — Gather friends or family and organise a reindeer circuit race. Set up a course with various challenges or exercises that each participant must complete before passing the "reindeer" baton to the next person. It's a spirited way to get everyone moving and competing in the holiday spirit.
- 12 Days of Fitness Challenge — Create a ‘12 Days of Fitness’ challenge inspired by the popular ‘12 Days of Christmas’ song. Starting from the first day of December, choose a different exercise for each day, such as jumping jacks, planks, or lunges. Perform the number of reps corresponding to the day, one on the first day, two on the second, and so on. It's a fun way to countdown to Christmas while staying active.
What if you lose motivation during the festive period?
It’s completely normal to experience a dip in motivation during December due to things like the cold weather, increased commitments across the month and the stress of Christmas. But you can get your motivation back on track by:
1. Setting realistic goals
Instead of setting overly ambitious fitness goals, focus on realistic and attainable objectives. For instance, aim to maintain your current fitness level, commit to a specific number of weekly workouts, or strive to stay active for a certain amount of time each day.
Realistic goals are more achievable and less intimidating, helping to sustain your motivation.
2. Find a workout partner
Consider partnering up with a friend or family member as your workout buddy. Exercising with someone else not only provides accountability but also adds an element of fun and social interaction to your fitness routine. You can motivate each other and share the experience of staying active during the festivities!
3. Rewarding yourself
Establish a reward system to celebrate your fitness achievements. Set specific milestones or goals, and treat yourself to something enjoyable when you reach them. Rewards can range from a favourite holiday treat to winding down with your favourite Christmas film and a candle, providing extra motivation to stay committed.
4. Focus on consistency, not perfection
Understand that perfection is not the goal, especially during Christmas. Occasional missed workouts or indulgence in holiday treats are part of the season and nothing to feel guilty about. What matters most is the consistency of your efforts over time. Don't let minor setbacks derail your overall progress.
To learn more, read our guide on how to stay motivated.
How do you stay active if you’re travelling over Christmas?
Staying active while travelling for Christmas can be easy with a little bit of planning. If you're visiting family or friends, suggest group activities like a post-dinner family walk to encourage everyone to stay active together.
Packing workout gear, such as resistance bands or lighter weights, can also help you squeeze in quick workouts when you need it most. Or, if you’re looking to head to the gym, there are over 30 Fitness First Gyms across the UK that you can take advantage of.
Ultimately, staying active during your Christmas travels is not only good for your physical health but also a great way to bond with loved ones and make lasting memories.
Stay active this festive season with Fitness First
No matter how you choose to spend your time this Christmas season, it’s so important that you do what’s right for your body.
At Fitness First, we offer a diverse selection of fitness classes, including SHRED, yoga, spin and more. Join today or book a free visit to experience our facilities within our gyms in London and beyond. For more inspiration, check out our blog to read up on the latest fitness and nutrition advice from the expert personal trainers at Fitness First.