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Consultants Corner: 12 days of Christmas health tips

Doctors at BMI Healthcare share their expertise.

21 December 2018

We’ve caught up with the staff at BMI The Chiltern Hospital who’ve offered their top health tips for the Christmas period, ensuring you remain fit and healthy going into the New Year.

Introducing the 12 Days of Christmas…healthcare style!

1. Keep moving
As the days get colder, gloomier and wetter, finding the motivation to work out can be a struggle. However, it’s a good idea to stay active as this will not only help you avoid weight gain but can also help boost your immune system and keep the winter blues at bay.

Even if you don’t feel like hitting the gym, there are plenty of ways you can keep moving. Try a fitness DVD, YouTube workout, walk to work or take a brisk lap around the block during your lunch break.

2. Watch your alcohol intake
While it’s fine if you want to enjoy a drink, be careful how much you consume. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to serious health problems, including liver disease.

Alcohol contains hidden calories, which could lead to unwanted weight gain. Remember your unit allowance: 14 units per week for men and women – equivalent to six 175ml glasses of wine, or six pints of beer.

 3. Try winter sports
Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy sports. You can still practice most sports at indoors facilities, or you may even want to try winter sports. Skiing, snowboarding and ice skating are all excellent workouts, and a lot of fun.

4. Take your vitamins
Winter is often the worst time of year for catching colds and flus, so your immune system may need a helping hand. Taking a daily multivitamin can be a good idea this time of year, as it could help fend off the many viruses and germs you’re likely to encounter.

Another supplement you should consider is vitamin D. The Department of Health now recommends that everybody takes a daily vitamin D 10mcg supplement during the winter months. The recommendations are higher for babies, children and those rarely exposed to the sun, so you may want to talk with your GP or a dietician.

5. Stay hydrated
It’s generally recommended we should drink 6-8 glasses of water a day, and you may even find that you need a little more during the winter months. If you don’t enjoy plain water, lower fat milks, lower sugar and sugar-free drinks, including tea and coffee, count too.

6. Wash your hands
Washing your hands is an effective way of helping to stop the spread of infection and germs5. Constantly washing your hands isn’t practical, so try to avoid touching surfaces at public places, such as on public transport and shopping areas, and carry a hand sanitiser.

7. Be social
Research has found that people with active social lives are living happier, longer lives. Fortunately the Christmas period is often one of the highlights for social calendars, with office parties and family gatherings commonplace.

Make the effort to get out as much as you can, no matter how miserable the weather is. It’s a great time to reconnect or catch up with friends and family, and the chances are you’ll feel better.

8. Get plenty of sleep
With so much going on at this busy time of year, you may find you’re not getting enough sleep. A lack of sleep has been linked to a weakened immune system, so it pays to rest. Figure out what’s keeping you awake, and aim for eight hours a night, even if you have to go to bed earlier.

9. Enjoy a healthier Christmas lunch
We tend to overload our plates on Christmas Day, so a healthy Christmas lunch may seem impossible. But there are ways you can make your Christmas meal healthier.

Avoid adding salt, cook with low calorie spray oil and make the majority of your plate up of a variety of vegetables to leave less room for meats and higher calorie sides. Finally, watch your alcohol intake and try to have a glass of water for every alcoholic drink you consume.

10. Try healthy swaps
Treats can be a dieting downfall, especially over Christmas where there is temptation from mince pies and chocolates. The key is to keep enjoying yourself without feeling deprived.

Try making some simple swaps such as substituting crisps for a handful of unsalted nuts, confectionary for a few squares of dark chocolate or juicy medjool dates, or pigs in blankets for asparagus wrapped in parma ham.

11. Appreciate the down time
If you tend to find Christmas stressful, you may find it helpful to try some mindful practices over the festive period.

Mindfulness means to pay attention and observe yourself and your environment without criticism.

Studies have shown that regular practice can help to lower anxiety and help us deal with day-to-day pressures. Practice gratitude for the things you may take for granted.

Or turn mundane tasks into mindful tasks, e.g. when preparing food, take in the smells, tastes and textures of what you’re putting together.

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