Personally Speaking (Mo Chaudry): How YOU can stay healthy this Christmas and still eat mince pies!

The festive season often results in diet over-indulgence and abandoned fitness regimes while January detoxes are just as notorious. I would however argue that healthy living, in its truest form, is not only straightforward to incorporate with Christmas but undeniably crucial.

I have always been keen to promote healthy living as an all-encompassing way of life: healthy living doesn't merely equate to a full ban on mince pies.

What it does mean, however, are all round healthier life choices to recognise the important connection between physical health and mental wellbeing; something which can carry a heavy burden over the festive season.

Given that one of the largest barriers to exercise is lack of time, a break in your usual routine provides an ideal chance to begin or maintain physical activity.

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It is something which increases your oxygen flow rate from 8 litres to 100 litres per minute and allows your cells to take in more nutrition from your blood.

If an influx of family visitors makes a full workout difficult, try to get everyone involved in something seasonal – a country walk or ice-skating perhaps.

You can also rig the odds of getting your guests up off the sofa by purchasing gifts which will need 'road testing' such as scooters, footballs or bikes.

And, if you can't possibly drag yourself outside, look for indoor alternatives to slumping on the sofa.

The ubiquitous Wii-Fit Plus offers a realm of opportunities for exercise, from hitting virtual tennis balls to punching invisible targets without even needing to put your shoes on.

Aside from the obvious health benefits, healthy living over the festive season can be critical as, while Christmas for most people is a fun time of year, filled with parties, celebrations, and social events with family and friends, for many people it is a time filled with sadness, self-reflection, loneliness, and anxiety. January has one of the highest suicide rates compared with other months.

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Physical fitness can bolster resilience through its ability to blunt reactions to stress, buffer against a range of mental health issues, protect against emotional stress and enhance overall health and wellness. After only half an hour of exercise your brain starts to release more endorphins which lift your mood.

A few hours after exercise your blood pressure becomes normalised, your sleep quality improves, you become more confident and your self-esteem increases.

A few months after continuous exercise your nervous system will have strengthened. The speed of nerve impulse transmissions increase, the brain activity improves and you are able to make decisions more quickly.




Pictured: Exercise is key!

Your musculoskeletal system strengthens; your muscles become bigger and your bones become denser.

You become less prone to stress, mood swings and depression. You live longer.

Although exercise is not a solution by itself, exercise can be part of a comprehensive program to improve mental health as well as social connections and optimism.

Social wellbeing can play an important part in overall physical health.

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That's why we encourage M Club members to become part of a community and organise plenty of social gatherings; the most popular of which are monthly walks in the Peak District led by a founding member of the club.

Although the festive period is often associated with alcohol and over-indulging on food, it's important to remember that alcohol is a depressant and drinking to excess can sometimes cause low mood and heighten anxiety.

Many don't realise that eating the wrong foods, and over-indulging can severely impact on your mood.

Even if you think it's normal to over-indulge at Christmas (and many do), its worth being mindful of how this can impact on you.

While I am not suggesting to forgo all treats and extras at Christmas, you can limit the damage on your health by selecting festive foods more carefully.

Try choosing healthier nibbles like roasted chestnuts or satsumas and think twice before eating.

Remember to start Christmas Day with breakfast to avoid overindulging later on and intersperse your alcoholic drinks with water to help reduce your calorie intake. Allow yourself to enjoy the great holiday food without feeling guilty but focus on exercising too.

Whether you want to alleviate stress, sharpen your brain, or boost overall happiness this Christmas time, physical activity is the answer.

Amid the chaotic Christmas shopping, the hectic social calendar and perhaps the feeling of overwhelming pressure to feel as happy as the season suggests, don't forget to keep active and, in doing so, give yourself a gift this Christmas, the gift of self-preservation.


Sophie Attwood