They say the average person consumes more than 6,000 calories on Christmas day. And a big Christmas dinner usually isn’t even the main culprit; it’s the nonstop snacking and drinking that sneaks up on you. One day of indulging certainly isn’t the end of the world (and you shouldn’t have to count calories on Christmas!), but the holiday season as a whole can be a bit of a bump in the road for those trying to live a healthy lifestyle. If you start getting together with friends for holiday drinks and parties in early December, and find sweets sitting out at home and in the office for several weeks, chances are you’ll pack on a few pounds by the time the festivities wind down on January 2. Is it any wonder that the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year revolve around getting fit and losing weight?
Some lucky people find that the extra pounds just melt away again as soon as they return to their usual post-holiday routine, but others struggle a bit. Although reaching and keeping a healthy weight involves a combination of diet and exercise, research has shown that most people underestimate both the number of calories they eat and the amount of exercise needed to burn off those calories. (Would you guess that a cup of eggnog clocks in at 343 calories, which equates to 34 minutes of breaststroke? Or that a candy cane, at 60 calories, takes 23 minutes to burn off if you’re walking at a 3 mph pace?)
If you’ve enjoyed the holiday treats and are looking to get back in shape, here are some ways to get moving. We’ve paired six favorite Christmas sweets with ideas for burning off the extra calories they represent.*
– A serving of traditional British Christmas pudding, 550 calories: 54 minutes swimming a fast front crawl
– A piece of Italian panettone (sweet bread), 357 calories: 45 minutes cross-country skiing at a moderate pace
– A serving of French bûche de Noël (Yule log), 160 calories: 19 minutes mountain biking
– A slice of Dutch kerststol (Christmas bread), 153 calories: 19 minutes circuit training
– A serving of Spanish mazapan (marzipan sweets), 118 calories: 30 minutes water aerobics
– A piece of German Lebkuchen (gingerbread cookie), 92 calories: 9 minutes water polo
Let’s get the year off to a healthy start. There’s no point in making New Year’s resolutions you know you won’t keep, but if you can find a fun activity that you enjoy for its own sake, losing the weight won’t feel like work!
What’s your favorite way to burn off extra holiday calories?
*There’s no one-size-fits-all equation, of course, because the number of calories burned varies depending on your weight and how hard you’re exercising; these estimates are based on a weight of 150 pounds.