Tuesday’s Top Health Tip: Getting Back in Shape After the Festive Period

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We all overdo it a bit at Christmas, and in the New Year. January is the perfect time to get back into shape – knock out those extra calories and make sure we’re getting active again after a period of sitting around watching black and white films and drinking sherry.

The temptation, after a period of not caring what you eat or drink, is to impose a drastic change. That’s essentially the post-Christmas equivalent of the yo-yo diet, though. So this week’s top health tip is to fly in the face of tradition and change the things you eat, without necessarily changing the amount that you consume.

Cut out the snacks – the honey roasted nuts, the chocolates consumed at inappropriate times of day, the endless wedges of Christmas cake – but don’t start skipping meals. Instead, resume whatever exercise you were doing before the break. If you weren’t doing any, now’s a good time to start.

Walking is by far and away the best thing you can do to your body as it ages. Walking is more than just a low impact exercise – it’s what your body was built to do. Enjoy the crisp clear January days and get out into the open air.

If you’re lucky enough to live within striking distance of open country – woodlands and fields – you can make a hobby of your walking. Carry a camera and start recording the changing seasons. Or make it a social occasion – start walking with friends.

Even city dwellers have plenty of opportunities to stretch a leg. Make it a habit to walk to the shops for your morning paper. Get up and enjoy a brisk constitutional before breakfast. Once you’ve turned the hobby into part of your daily routine you’ll be taking the exercise without even noticing you’re doing it.

It is a fallacy to think that eating less food will make you healthier. It might make you thinner – but it will also make you weaker, and more prone to the illnesses that tend to fly around at this time of year.

The size and shape of your body is not wholly indicative of your actual health. Apparently slender people can carry hidden fat around their organs – which is far more dangerous than visible fat settled on the abdomen or limbs. Larger people can be stacked with the natural muscle that comes from years of activity: the sort of strength often seen in builders and bricklayers.

The real indicator of your health is the way you feel. If you feel mobile and independent, you’re probably pretty healthy. If you feel sluggish, and find simple tasks hard to complete, you’re probably in need of a change in diet and exercise. Ultimately, you need to move more and sit still less.

Food substitution is a much healthier way to regain control of what you eat than cutting out the calories altogether. Eat a piece of fruit, instead of a chocolate bar. Eschew the crisps in favour of a cup of herbal tea. And never underestimate the benefits of some good fresh air.