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Tips for staying healthy over the Christmas holidays

It’s all too easy to allow Christmas to become an excuse to let ourselves go, health-wise. We tend to eat more of the wrong things, drink more alcohol than usual and let our fitness schedules fall by the wayside.

Sure, we all want to let our hair down a bit over the holiday period and relax, but that doesn’t mean we should abuse our bodies and forget to look after ourselves. The Christmas break should be a relaxing time for recharging our batteries – not a frenzy of poor health choices and bad habits.

Staying healthy over Christmas involves a bit of planning, some determination and the ability to follow through on the promises you’ve made to yourself.

Here are some tips for enjoying a healthier festive season this year:

Simplify your exercise routine

If your local gym and team sporting activities shut down over Christmas, that doesn’t mean you should stop exercising. The trick to keeping up with fitness over the holidays is to do it at home.

Buy yourself an exercise mat, some gliding discs and some resistance bands and create your own workout. There are plenty of exercise apps and online programs that can help you set up a simple exercise routine.

According to Lizzy Williamson, author of Two Minute Moves “A great way keep up your energy and fitness is to turn your housework chores into a workout.” Check out some more tips from the experts here.

Exercise is especially important over Christmas because of the additional calories you’ll probably be taking in.

You should set aside at least 20 minutes a day for some kind of fitness training – it doesn’t matter if it’s a brisk walk, yoga, a jog, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), Pilates or rabid dancing to heavy metal music, as long as it gets your heart rate up and moves those muscles.

If you can find a supportive workout buddy, that’ll help a lot – you can help keep each other on track so you don’t ‘fall off the fitness wagon’ in December.

Less alcohol, more water

Because Christmas in Australia takes place in the heat of summer, dehydration is a real danger, especially if you’ve been hitting the booze. That backyard game of cricket is great for some exercise but when it’s over, you’re better off getting some water into you than guzzling a cold beer.

If there are Christmas parties in your holiday schedule, make sure you drink plenty of water during those nights out. This helps your kidneys detoxify your blood more effectively and keeps dehydration at bay.

Eating a big starchy meal before you drink can help slow the rate of alcohol absorption in your body, and continuing to snack during the evening can reduce the intensity of your hangover the next day.

Drink alcohol slowly – the human liver needs time to process alcohol and can only handle so much at a time. If your friends are buying you drinks, make sure at least every other one is iced water with lemon – your head will thank you in the morning. Know your own limits with alcohol and stick to them.[i]

Don’t sacrifice sleep

Because you’re no longer setting the alarm to get up and go to work each day, you should – in theory – be able to get more sleep over the Christmas break. What you need to watch out for, though, is having too many late nights in a row and disrupting your normal sleep routine.

Good health requires consistent, high-quality sleep, but this can sometimes be a challenge because of the new stresses that Christmas-time brings: more intense shopping than at any other time of year, exposure to relatives you may not get along with, squabbling children with too much time on their hands, etc.

Add in the hot weather and it can be tricky to get the sleep you need, but it’s important to stay on top of your sleep patterns so you don’t ‘crash and burn’ from fatigue.

Stay safe

It’s amazing how Christmas can lead to an increase in accidents around the home. The urge to grab a ladder and hang up some Christmas lights (especially after a beer or six) leads hospitals to see a surge in what they call ‘decorating under the influence’ injuries each year.[ii]

Then there are the injuries associated with testing out new ‘toys’ like skateboards, jet skis and the like.

Australian hospitals normally expect a 20-40% increase in admissions between Christmas and the start of January, and the most common health issues occurring during that time include mental health problems, trauma (often related to recreational activities), cardiac issues, alcohol-related health injuries (and illness) and heat-related difficulties.

Snakes, spiders, jellyfish and insects are also more prevalent at that time of year, so there are more admissions for bites and stings as well. Because of the warmer weather and higher volumes of food being served over the holiday period, food poisoning becomes a greater risk too.[iii]

Don’t be a glutton

When it comes to eating over Christmas, common sense will go a long way: eat more turkey, salad, veggies and fruit and less ham, cake, candies and chips. Ditch soft drinks entirely, keep your portion sizes under control and take it easy on the alcohol. Enjoy!

Key takeaways:

[i] https://www.leaf.tv/articles/how-to-lower-blood-alcohol-content/

[ii] https://qz.com/859303/americas-most-common-christmas-related-injuries-in-charts/

[iii] https://www.ausmed.com/articles/most-common-hospital-presentations-over-christmas/

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