Christmas is a time when many healthy eating plans can fall by the wayside as our minds turn to turkey, roast potatoes, mince pies and mulled wine. But by staying active you can ensure your holidays are as guilt-free as possible - and cycling is a great way to stay on top of those festive calories.
According to research, the average Briton will consume in the region of 6,000 calories on Christmas day - around three times our daily recommended allowance. Christmas dinner will contribute approximately 2,000 calories, with any additional snacks and beverages soon swelling that figure - and our bellies. Many of us don't realise the impact of our overindulgence, with the average adult believing they only consume 3,000 calories on Christmas day - half their actual intake.
But fear not. Getting on your bike this Christmas can keep those festive calories in check, ensuring your fitness goals remain on track for the New Year and beyond.
Cycling is a great way to shed any excess weight and improve your overall health, and it will give you the perfect excuse to try out any new gear you may have received from Santa. An average person weighing 155lbs can burn almost 600 calories per hour with some moderate cycling. That’s an impressive return for 60 minutes of exercise. And the faster you ride, the more calories you will burn. Cycling increases your heart rate and also engages your major muscle groups - your quadriceps, glutei, hamstrings and calves.
The aerobic nature of cycling means you burn fat. Riding at a pace where conversation is possible, but not easy, will help fire up your internal furnace and ensure you torch those unwanted calories. To intensify the burn, why not try interval training? Work at full pace for two minutes and then rest for 30 seconds - repeat six times. Interval training burns calories, even after you have finished your workout. Sometimes for up to 12 hours.
While one single bike ride is unlikely to wipe out all 6,000 festive calories - it would take you around 10 hours to achieve that when riding at a moderate speed - it will help you stay on top of those festive pounds. And if you get some friends involved then it will help you stay motivated into the New Year and beyond.
Alternatively, you could opt for a healthier Christmas meal. Taking the skin off your turkey will cut down on the calories - some 40 per portion - and choosing the breast is also a healthier option. You could also swap your sausage-based stuffing for one made from nuts and fruit. Roast potatoes are covered in oil and fat so their calorific value will be higher. Swapping a roast potato for a baked variety could save you 40 calories, and also reduce your fat intake by around 4.5g. Vegetables are great for you, but just make sure you don’t cover them in butter before serving.
As for Christmas pudding, it is fairly low in fat and high in carbohydrate. It provides some fibre, B vitamins, potassium, iron and calcium. But it is also high in sugar, so have a small portion and try to avoid the high-calorie brandy butter or double cream. Try natural yoghurt or low-fat custard.
Christmas is a great time for relaxing with family and friends, and enjoying some festive treats regardless of their calorific value. So eat, drink and be merry. And if you can, get out on your bike and keep pedalling!