For once, let's not lie to ourselves about how we're going to "take it easy" this Christmas. Most of us are going to give thanks by indulging like gluttonous pigs and that's okay. Look, we all give ourselves a pass every now and then, but let's face facts: if we don't want to have more chins on our chin's chins by the time we're having to head back into the office, we're going to have to work it off.
But just how much work are you going to have to do, exactly? And what work will be doing, too? We crunched the numbers so you don't have to.
How Many Calories In?
The jury is out about how much the "average" Brit actually consumes on Christmas Day every year, although a new study reckons it can be as much as 6,000 calories worth once all the off-plate trimmings are accounted for. But whatever you scoff, considering the recommended daily calorie intake is between 1,600 and 2,400 for most of us, it's safe to say that we'll be putting in more than our bodies will appreciate.
Obviously, there are going to be a lot of variables. How big are you, and how much are you going to eat? Is Aunt Beryl going to cook everything in butter? Are you vegetarian? Vegan? Male or female? Drinking booze or teetotaling?
Let's just say, for the sake of argument, that we're all going to consume the said 6,000 calories in and around the Queen's Speech. That's plenty of good, bad food. Or bad, good food, depending on how you look at it.
Burn Baby Burn
Full disclosure: calculating calorie burn is very much a "your mileage will vary" type of situation. People who weigh more will burn more calories than people who weigh
less. Younger people, fitter people, people with higher metabolism will burn calories faster. Maybe running is easy for you, but swimming makes your heart pound like crazy. The variables go on and on.
All that being said, let's use a person of average fitness and take our fighting weight as 73kg. If you weigh less, you'll have to add more time to the exercises below. If you weigh more, then you can subtract a little. Most of these figures come straight from The Mayo Clinic. Prepare yourself, though: some of these numbers are shocking.
But don't worry, there's a bit of good news at the end. Okay, let's get to the fun stuff…
Time Per Activity
A brisk walk may be just the thing to clear the head when the in-laws are getting a bit much and only Noel's Christmas Family Video Accidents is on. At a moderately quick pace of 5.5km/h, you're burning about 314 calories per hour. You are going to have to be feeling like doing a full Forrest Gump, though, because you're looking at 19 hours and 8 minutes of hoofing it to clear your Christmas extras. Or, to put it more brutally, 71 and a half kilometres. Hope you've got comfy shoes.
Okay, so walking was still a little too lax and you want to kick things up a notch. You find yourself a good, low-traffic bike path where you can average speeds of 19 to 23 km/h, giving you a moderately intense workout. According to NutriStrategy, you'll be burning about 575 calories per hour. That's roughly 10 and a half hours of biking, or 236 kilometres if you're averaging 23km/h. You'll be needing that extra-large tube of saddle cream in your stocking.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a person weighing 73kg, jogging at about 8km/h, will burn 606 calories per hour. To zero out a 6,000-calorie scoffing, you're going to have to jog for nine hours and 54 minutes – that translates to almost 80 kilometres of jogging. So, you're going to run nearly two marathons like it's no big deal.
Ooh, now we're talking. If you're crunched for time, and can only pop up out back in between entertaining, doing a bit of Rocky-style jumping over a rope again and again is one of your better options. Coming in at 861 calories per hour, you're looking at about seven hours of skipping. However, this is little comfort for those of us without rhythm of hops.
If you're more into the club scene than the gym scene, and you don't mind sweating gravy in a room full of strangers, then you can burn about 437 calories per hour of arse-shaking. Well, technically, that number is for "jazzercise," but it was the closest analogy we could find. The point is, we're looking at 13 hours and 42 minutes of active workin' it. Which, conveniently, is how much David Guetta is currently on Spotify.
A personal favourite, though not recommended until you're feeling a little less full. Swimming laps, freestyle, at a medium pace, will knock out roughly 600 calories per
hour. That's 10 hours of swim time.
Who doesn't love a good post-Chrimbo canoe? Only those with hearts of evil, that's who. But if you're blessed with a lake near your seasonal getaway and are hoping your jaunt will deflate your new spare tire, I hope you've set aside the whole week. Canoeing (in flat water, we assume) only burns about 256 calories per hour. That means you've got to keep that oar in the water and be actively paddling for 23 hours and 27 minutes. You can cut that time down by paddling up stream, but that's pretty much like being on an outdoor treadmill.
Sexercise, baby. What could be hotter than two over-full guts bouncing off each other? In recent studies, the New England Journal of Medicine and the University of Quebec at Montreal both concluded that you burn about 3.5 calories per minute of sex (including foreplay). Obviously that will differ depending on position, intensity, and whether the gimp has had much caffeine, but basically you're staring down the barrel of just over 28 and a half hours of getting freaky (friction burns not withstanding). Better ask Sting for some pointers.
Now, some of these numbers may be intimidating – okay, borderline abandon-hope-all-ye-who-enter-here – but remember you don't have to do this all at once. You can spread it out over the coming weeks, maybe months. Even better, you can mix and match, to keep things interesting. Just use the calories per hour number to keep track of what you've done and add it all up until you're in the black.
But keep in mind that this is exercise beyond your usual routine for balancing out your normal calorie consumption. It ends up being a lot of extra time tacked on, and with so much scoffing and sitting around, it's really no surprise that most of us put on a bit at this time of year.
Try to make time for it, though, because if you do, your year will get off to a far better start. Your future-self will thank you for it, even if your present-self is cursing up a blue streak as you canoe into eternity.