No doubt celebrating in the Christmas festive season comes with packing on unwanted 1 or 2 pounds. Now, researchers from Loughborough University have found that the Christmas-themed Workouts or ‘Active Advent’ helped people get off the sofa more and prevented physical inactivity during the Christmas holidays. 

The study which was published in the journal The BMJ also found that participants had a good time doing Active Advent interventions which consisted of  “abdominal snowman” sit-ups and a “Christmas deliveries” walk. The researchers say the fact that participants enjoyed and adhered to the intervention further proves the public will be highly receptive to public health campaigns to assist in their getting fit and lessening sitting during the festive season.

Physical activity has been established to be a major factor in the stopping and management of diseases such as heart disease and diabetes

The Christmas season is a period characterized by merriments, public holidays, devouring of food and drinks, cut back on physical activity along with an increase in sitting behaviors. Although, it’s worth noting that being physically inactive also contributes largely to weight gain and there’s substantial proof that the population gain around 0.4 – 0.9kg of weight over the Christmas holiday season. These values, according to the study authors, emphasize the importance of testing unique interventions designed specifically to help the public become more fit while ensuring optimal health. 

Methods

To do this, the research team recruited a total of 107 participants between 11 and 30 November 2021 from social media, a variety of workplaces, and local community groups. More than half of the participants made up women who were of white ethnicity and had an average age of 46 years. The researchers grouped the 107 participants into intervention (71) and control groups (36).

Throughout the festive season (i.e Dec 1 – Dec 24), participants were emailed every day a Christmas-themed physical activity to be accomplished that day.

These physical activities were divided into three levels of physical activity intensity: Easy Elf (light intensity), Moderate Mrs Claus (moderate intensity), or Strenuous Santa (heavy intensity) — of which participants chose which was more convenient for them. Plus, they were allowed to switch intensity levels each day as they desired.

These activities were provided with detailed descriptions of how they were to be performed correctly and safely. Then, the participants were instructed to report on the number of days they did these muscle-strengthening exercises per week with the aid of questionnaires. 

Participants who performed the exercise were told to rate their enjoyment of the activity ideas. They were also told to report in full detail, which activity and at which intensity. This was to assess their level of adherence every day.

In addition, an accelerometer was given to about half the participants to wear on their non-dominant wrist for 24 hours every day throughout the 24 days of Christmas.

Results

By week 3, those that did the activities or exercises reported engaging in 21 extra minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity workouts each week than the control group. They also reported having just over half a day more muscle-building exercises when compared to the control. 

From the accelerometer data, the researchers found that those who did the exercise routine engaged in slightly more minutes each day of moderate-to-vigorous intense sessions (15 mins), light-intensity physical activity (22 mins), and all physical activity altogether (37 mins), compared to participants in the control group. They were also found to spend lesser time being inactive per day when compared to those in the control.

Meanwhile, about 70 percent of participants in the intervention group reported enjoying the intervention. 69 percent confirmed that they completed the Active Advent intervention ideas every day. Of which 30 percent completed Easy Elf, 21 percent completed Moderate Mrs Claus, and 18 percent for Strenuous Santa.

“These results highlight that public health interventions such as Active Advent, can be useful in nudging the public to be physically active, at a time when they need support the most,” the authors conclude in the study.

Written by

Medically Reviewed by