Make time for exercise over the festive season

Sian Crips, Georgia Perry and Abi Robinson, from Oaklands School, Waterlooville, celebrating their A-level results. Picture: Habibur Rahman PPP-170817-140116006

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With Christmas Day gone and a new year on the horizon, now is the time of year when many of us will overindulge as we celebrate the festive period.

And with the cold weather and short days it can be very tempting to curl up on the sofa in front of the television rather than going out and exercising.

With so much food and drink being consumed at this time of year, however, it is as important as ever to get up and about and make sure you stay active.

One great way to do this is to participate in the Festival of Winter Walks, set up and run by the Ramblers, Britain’s walking charity.

Until January 2 2012, the festival will give people the chance to enjoy free woodland walks, ranging from short and easy trails, to more challenging hikes for those with more experience.

All are welcome with walks taking place across England, Scotland and Wales.

It gives participants a chance to burn off those excess Christmas calories in a sociable setting, while you can also enjoy being out and experiencing the countryside views.

Visit the rambler’s website, ramblers.org.uk, to find a walk near you. There are plenty taking place here in the south.

If you don’t fancy braving the cold, however, it is worth considering indoor pursuits, such as visiting the gym or the swimming baths, to get you up and moving.

Getting more exercise doesn’t have to cost a lot – follow these tips to get fit for less:

· Exercise DVDs and You Tube videos are a great way to get a regular workout without having to pay for classes or gym membership.

· Vigorous housework can burn calories. Try listening to music when dusting or hovering to get moving.

· If you have stairs in your house, run up and down them a few times a day to raise your heartbeat.

· Yoga or Pilates are both great forms of exercise and can be done at home. Look out for books, online tutorials and DVDs to help you learn the basic positions.

It’s not just over the festive period that it is important to exercise though.

And of course there are many physical and mental benefits to keeping active.

Regular exercise means a healthier heart, as it can reduce the risk of developing certain heart conditions, whereas a lack of activity can increase your chances of coronary heart disease and heart attacks.

Weight control is another important benefit of exercise, as it helps you reach and maintain your ideal weight.

This is particularly important in light of the fact that there are around 9,000 premature deaths in this country from obesity each year.

As well as having health benefits, this can also make you feel happy about your appearance.

Being physically active can also help your mental health by helping you deal with anxiety, stress and depression.

Exercise can also help you sleep better at night, lower your blood pressure and strengthen your muscles, joints and bones, which can assist with mobility and balance, particularly for older people.

It is recommended that adults should do at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderately intensive exercise, such as cycling or fast walking, every week. It is also important for children to be active and those under 18 should carry out at least an hour of moderately intensive exercise every day. Exercising together can be a great activity for the whole family.

Further information on exercising can also be found on the NHS Choices website (nhs.uk).