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Monday, 07 September 2009 00:00
It may be the season of joy, but for many people Christmas is also the season of stress. Winter weather, over-eating, thronging shops and awkward office parties can have the best of us reaching for the Christmas spirit cabinet. All the more reason not to wait until the New Year to kick start your exercise regime.
Exercise can trigger the release of brain chemicals called endorphins, which are produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus. and help to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. So the more you exercise, the better you’ll feel. Exercise will raise your metabolism meaning your body burns more calories each day. It can also increase the way your body breaks down fat to give you energy during your activity, helping to burn off all those mince pies.
Ian Lahart from the University of Wolverhampton says "To maintain or increase your activity levels over the festive period requires greater motivation and will power than any other part of the year. The good news is that both exercise and physical activity (such as climbing stairs, household activities, gardening, and dancing) offer health benefits."
Lahart recommends we aim to achieve at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity activity 5 to 7 days a week. There are hundreds of different ways of meeting this goal – from climbing or swimming to hiking in groups or taking up ballroom dancing – you simply have to find the one that’s right for you. Why not put some exercise equipment on your wish list for Christmas this year?
In the long run, regular exercise and a balanced diet can help shed weight which in turn reduces your chance of developing obesity-related diseases like type 2 diabetes. And if that wasn’t all, weight bearing exercise will help to maximize bone mass, reducing the risk of osteoporosis (when your bones get brittle and fracture more easily) in later life. Exercise also protects the arteries supplying blood to the heart, reducing the chances of developing coronary artery disease (furring of the arteries).
Other top tips from the experts:
Sports psychologist Professor Andrew Lane from the University of Wolverhampton says: 'Exercising as part of a group of people you like will help you enjoy your exercise more.'
Professor Lane adds: 'Psychological studies have found that a sense of progress is important when exercising, so have some sensible goals you know you can achieve.'
Nutrition consultant Sarah Bernard says: 'Stay well hydrated. When we exercise, we lose water as sweat and as water vapour while we’re breathing. Drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout to maximise your performance.'
Sarah adds: 'Eat a light meal 2-4 hours before your workout - or a carb-based snack 1-2 hours before. If you wait too long after eating you may find your blood sugar levels become too low and you become lightheaded or tired more quickly.'
'It’s important to exercise regularly but remember having a body-fat percentage below 20% can affect monthly periods and bone density - so maintain a healthy weight and don’t overdo it' says Sarah.
British Dietetic Association (Registered Dietitians (RDs) are the only qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat diet and nutrition problems at an individual and wider public health level.)
Change4Life contains loads of advice on how to make small changes to eat well, move more, and live longer.