December Health: Fitness Christmas Calender and the Happiest Exercise

Dear blog reader,

NOW it is officially Christmas time (not october or november …) ♥ The First of December, first day of the Christmas month ♥ A time for happy hearts ♥ Enjoy these days and get into a joyous Christmas mood ♥ Joy is a ‘present’, not (just) the eadibles or the presents ♥

Fitness Christmas Calender Tip # 1

Smile 🙂

  1. Smile right now – a big smile: Be grateful for every (Christmas) day.
  2. Smile and the World smiles with you.
  3. It is true: Perform the exercise ‘smile’ and you will automatically be happier.

Christmas Calender Candle Merry December photo Marina Aagaard Henrik Elstrup

Have a truly happy Christmas month ♥

5 Wellness Ways to Weight loss or Weight maintenance

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Today I was interviewed by a journalist, who wanted to know, why it is so difficult to stick to your New Years resolutions (diets)?
There can be several reasons: One reason is, that old habits die hard. Another reason is, that most people aim way too high with I-wanna-lose-weight-and-I-wanna-lose-it-right-now goals!

Again and again it is proven, that the ‘small increment technique” is the way to long-lasting results for weight loss and weight maintenance.
In order for new habits to become old habits, they need to be manageable and ‘edible’; it is wise to start with just one or two small improvements at a time.

Healthy diet with vegetables and healthy oils for weight loss or weight maintenance

Here are five suggestions, that works well, whether you are at home or travelling:

1. Eat more vegetables (moderate amount of fruit). Begin by eating a vegetable in the morning, e.g. a big tomato, and a vegetable at noon and in the afternoon, e.g. red peppers or some sort of sweet cabbage. It is easier to get plenty of greens, when you eat them throughout the day. Note: Many vegetables taste (almost) like candy, such as organic carrots, beetroots or sweet peppers..
Do you find it difficult to eat enough vegetables each day? Then try ‘supplementing’ with your own vegetable smoothies (add a little fruit and yoghurt); like milkshakes, but healthy!

2. Go for whole grain products, e.g. when buying bread, rice and pasta; it tastes better, it is more filling and it is a sneaky replacement for all the unhealthy ‘white’ stuff…

3. Eat 10-12 raw almonds as a snack, if needed.
Chew many times, 35-50 bites (!) each; they last longer and taste like marzipan.
Only eat snacks, if you feel you need to, if you are often hungry between meals (and if you are, then check the quality of your meals).

4. Eat ‘healthy’ (mono and poly unsaturated) oils every day. E.g. make salad dressings with 2-3 spoonfuls of rapeseed oil (or olive oil) and balsamico, e.g. for a salad with cabbage with some pumpkin seeds.
Healthy fat is essential for your brain and bodily functions, so also eat some fat fish such as salmon, trout or mackerel for lunch or dinner several times a week.

5. Drink 2-3 liters of water every day throughout the day. Avoid all drinks containing sugar – they promote fatness – including alcohol (alcohol is not healthy, it is fattening and makes you ill, so enjoy it in moderation for the taste of it).
Tip: It you do drink alcohol, then drink slowly, (‘chew’) taste every mouthful and drink water as well. Enjoy alcohol together with food to slow down uptake.

Say no to deprivation. Say yes to better tasting options (habits).

Have A Merry Christmas: Christmas Food and Fitness Strategies

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Christmas is not just Peace, Joy and Happy hearts … it is also nice food and sweets. Accept this as a good thing. Abandon all worries about overeating and gaining weight. Instead: Be smart, prepare and stay in shape.

Christmas decoration on the fireplace photo Marina Aagaard

A green Christmas Heart on the fireplace.

Per Braendgaard Myth calendar 20/24 (quote): Myth: It is not what you eat between Christmas and New Years Eve, that makes you gain weight. It is what you eat, between New Years Eve and Christmas! So you might as well eat like crazy in December and then diet in January. Fact: What you eat between Christmas and New Years Eve can also make you gain weight, so you might as well be on (the right healthy) diet in December, not just January.

Marina Aagaard Mythbuster: Yes! I have completed thorough investigations! It is what you eat from New Years Eve to Christmas and what you eat between Christmas and New Years Eve, that makes you gain weight! That’s life … 1) make your choice, 2) enjoy it, 3) wipe your eyes, when the damage is done … or:

1. Initiate your Christmas meal with a drink of water (or just before the meal); Water is healthy and you won’t feel as hungry.

2. Continue to drink water (limit alcohol consumption, XXX calories!)

3. Eat slowly, so the great taste lasts much longer, mmmmmhhhhhhhh.

4. Have small portions – you can have two servings if needed (avoid wasting food).

5. Start with vegetables (and avoid white bread, which makes you hungry); high fiber foods makes you feel full and healthy – and you won’t overeat the less healthy stuff.

6. Enjoy your Christmas dinner(s), every bite of it, it’s only Christmas once a year. But ensure that your food is of good quality and savour it; mindful eating.

7. Make the right choices. If you are surrounded by candy, then choose wisely: Go for 2 home-made pralines with dark chocolate and marzipan, it is filling and satisfying, rather than 20 mass-produced pieces of sweets … think strategically.

8. Move more (as much as possible); walk the dog, the family or the trash. Even small amounts of movement count, e.g. after your meal, it is good for you and your digestion.

9. Be physically active during Christmas, this is a good time; you have time for it. Take a trip to the countryside or the seaside and go for a walk; it is wellness with a touch of fat burning … a  little is a lot better than nothing.
And: Work out, there are plenty of ways of working out properly between Christmas and New Years Eve. Do you own outdoor (or home) fitness program or go the fitness center, which offers exciting group exercise classes. It is also a brilliant time to kick off a new exercise habit (instead of January, when everyone else has the same idea).

Proper exercise is an effective means of weight maintenance during Christmas.

10. Think wisely. Apart from positive thinking in general it is a smart move to tell yourself: “I will never go on a diet and most certainly not in January” (a diet is an almost foolproof method of gaining weight over time). When you pass on that option, you will take better care of yourself during Christmas and the rest of the year.

A moment of truth: Any risk of uncontrolled over-eating; the big irresistable Christmas dinner (or buffet)? Then an option could be to neutralize the effect by having a day or two of fasting, e.g. the day before and/or after – or the intermediate solution of 12 hours of fasting (in the fast (5:2) diet; 1 small meal is allowed). Not just to save calories; but you get to know your body and appetite better, which is great.
Note: Do not skip eating two days in a row, as it results in muscle protein breakdown, and you do not want to lose muscle mass: The muscles are more metabolically active than fat!
In the fast diet you eat like you normally do for 5 days and fast (partially) for 2 days (not consecutive). In IF, Intermittent Fasting, you eat one day and go one day without eating. Note, there are different IF strategies.
In these types of diets you
retain lean mass, ie muscle, which is not seen with standard calorie restricted diets.

Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

Wellness Tour: Let Your Five Senses Travel

By Marina Aagaard, MFT

Stay fit and well by seeking new sensory experiences; this stimulates the tactile organs and the brain. You do not have to travel around the world; every day you can experience something new, if you want to: Be mindful and proactive.
Let your eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin ‘wander’; keep all your senses happy by treating them to different things.  

I took a sensory trip late summer to Sculpture by the Sea, Aarhus. The sound of the wind and waves is always pleasing to the ear and seaside air feels and smells refreshing.
This ‘trip’ was mainly a visual experience, though, as most of the sculptures were surrounded by signs ‘Do Not Touch’. However, some artworks were meant to be touched and used, eg. a lively bathing jetty and a tea ‘frame’ (at bottom of post).

One special piece attracted my attention. At a distance it looked like stone, alabaster, but when I got up closed and touched it, it was sticky and foul-smelling! A surprise:
Beautiful art is nice, but so is ugly and puzzling art.

Sculpture by the sea Grain of Soap photo Henrik Elstrup 1) I see something somewhat different. 2) I listen; no sound except for the waves.
3) I touch it, it is sticky! 4) I smell it, a strange smell (later learned it was raw soap).
Due to the smell, I refrain – for once – from tasting it.

This piece – I discovered when reading the program later on – was meant to resemble a super large grain of sand.
Grain of Soap. Material: Soap. Approx. 200x200x300 cm. Artist: Esben Brandt-Møller.
The artist used a microscope to map a grain of sand from the Aarhus beach, enlarged the image, then had it modeled in clay and cast in soap. Just as a grain of sand is worn by water, wear and tear reshaped and dissolved the ‘grain of soap’ continuously throughout the exhibition. A thought-provoking idea.

Sea kaffeTea with a view # 2. Wood, acrylic. Artist: Anja Franke. Spectators could sit on the frame,  many did, and make a cup of tea (with herbs planted next to this) and become part of  the view and landscape. Art with a touch of taste.

Jetty at Sculpture by the Sea photo Henrik Elstrup Vandmodul A1 og B2 Fase 1. Floating pontoons, larch wood. Artist: Jesper Dalgaard.
A sculpture, special movable-element bathing jetty in-between art and architecture.
Challenging your sense of balance.

Your senses are truly fantastic, treasure and protect them. Here is a quick guide to strategies for improved sensory fitness and wellness and anti-aging:

Senses | Senses Super Life and Sport

Eyes | Look See Super Performance Tip

Ears | Hear Hear Performance Listening

Nose | Sniff Sniff Air Energy and Life

Mouth | Chew Chew Life and Energy Anew

Skin | Touch Touch Feel Much …

Bitten By a Bad Bug? Walk Around the Block

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

So it is that time of year … summer holiday aka recovery period is long gone.
It is getting cold and the cold is getting you (me). Or worse: You are bitten by a bad bug or caught by a feverish flu. A sorry scenario: Too sick to eat, sleep and work out?!
No way! If you are low on power, a good old walk may do the trick:

Walking is man’s best medicine
Hippocrates, physician (460-377 BC)

Mols Bjerge Nationalpark Danmark foto Marina Aagaard

I took a walk in the neighbourhood; Mols Bjerge National Park, Denmark.

Walking has numerous health benefits and a lot less risk of overuse injury, than e.g. running.

  • Walking at low, slow, speed stimulates mindfulness and stress reduction. An excellent activity every once in a while, even for hardcore exercisers,
  • Walking at regular speed provides limited cardiovascular exercise, but if the walk is long enough, you will still burn some calories – apart from getting healthier.
  • Walking with increased speed, powerwalking, and interval walking with regular intervals or fartlek, e.g. walking on hills and stairs, will improve your stamina; how much depends on initial fitness level.

Lately, I have been taking quite a few walks around the block – or rather neighbourhood –
to curb and chip away an evil cough … #¤”&//=?@£${{@£!!!

It serves as mind-body travelling, too. Walking, travelling, at a moderate pace doubles as active meditation and you have time to observe all things small and great … you are observant in a leisurely way, a bit like being on holiday (travelling): Like!

Go walk.

A few fall walk snapshots from down the road (2 km): A typical Danish holiday area by one of many small beaches at the eastern part of Jutland peninsula, mainland Denmark:

Holiday houses Følle Strand Danmark photo Marina Aagaard

Holiday area Følle Strand Danmark photo Marina Aagaard

Ugelbølle beach holiday area fall afternoon photo Marina Aagaard

I can’t help it … taking photos of nature’s wonderful sunsets (soooo predictable).

Cruise Ship Fitness: 10 Expert Tips for Fitness and Health

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

So you want to cruise? Enjoy a relaxing holiday at sea with sunbathing by the pool and all-inclusive dining … but worried about putting on weight and losing fitness? No need to worry, you can have your cake and eat it, too …


Depending on your general activity level and food intake, ashore and on board, you can maintain weight and fitness by following one or more of these excellent and proven strategies (most work at home, too).

Cruise ship pasta dish

Too much of this?

Cruise ship dance lesson

You need much more of this!

10 Cruise Ship Fitness Tips

1. Enjoy! Get the most out of your cruise. Think happy thoughts (stress and worrying is very bad for health and weight maintenance) and relax; breathing deeply and slowly (inhale through the nose) helps.

2. Eat with mindfulness. Do not feel ‘guilty’, rather savour every mouthful. Eat with all of your senses, eat slowly and with maximal enjoyment.
It is better for your digestion and you will be satisfied sooner.

3. Stand and move about more. If you plan to do a lot of sitting by the (ice cream) bar or lying around in deck chairs, get up and walk about at least once every hour. Grab every chance to ‘run an errand’. It all adds up to more calories expended.

4. Walk (or run) more. Go to shore and do some sightseeing. Walk every where you can and see more (it will shape up your cells, grey and others, too). On board; walk around the ship to see all of it, the passageways (corridors) go on for miles: Not only exercise, an adventure.

5. Dance. Most cruise ships offer many different styles of dance lessons every day, from fitness ‘dance’ aerobics and ZumbaFitness over disco, latin and salsa to ballroom dancing. Dancing is an optimal way of exercising; it does not feel like exercise, but fun.

6. Take the stairs. Large cruise ships have endless flights of stairs. Use them at every opportunity. Do not take the elevators. Stair walking is excellent for cardiovascular fitness, tones your legs and will help maintain weight.

7. Participate in sports games. Large cruise ships have tennis and basket ball courts, table tennis and more. Find something you enjoy at home or try something completely different. Playing a game is great for mental and physical (and social) fitness and health.

8. Do some fitness exercise. It is holiday, so make it fun! Usually there is a dance exercise floor, where you can do bodyweight or free weight exercises. Or use the cardiovascular and resistance training machines; if you are not used to exercising, it is a good chance of trying something new, if your are a fitness buff, work out in a new way with different exercises for variety.

9. Do high intensity training. If you really want to keep fit, while on your cruise, interval training and circuit training gives you maximal results in minimal time … so you can spend more time holidaying.
Perform total body exercises and lift heavier weights for functional fitness.
Video below show a couple of exercises as basic preparation for this.

10. Get quality rest. Recovery is all-important after workouts, but also after long periods of working hard. Using the wellness facilities, the jacuzzi, sauna or steam bath or even having a massage, will increase fitness, health and wellness.
Recovery tip # 1: A good nights sleep is paramount for fitness and performance and weight loss or weight maintenance.

A short video with a couple of workout suggestions for beginners:


Airport Wellness

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

An airport is a special place; either you see just a glimpse of it rushing through or you have plenty of time, no rush, because your itinerary dictates a longer stay.
In that case, apart from plenty of shops, normally there is an abundance of cafes or restaurants, where you can pass time: When visiting; make smarter choices, so this part of your journey does not undermine your well-being and performance.
Avoid nausea, discomfort and fatigue and maintain health and wellness during your travelling by making some small adjustments.

Wellness on your journey coffee for two Marina Aagaard

Maybe just one cup of coffee and some almonds instead of croissants and cappuccinos?!

Do you (frequently) spend hours at the airport? Improve your airport ‘stay’ and stay healthy using these simple strategies, which also work at home.

Airport wellness

  • Drink plenty of water; so you avoid 1) dehydration and 2) liquid sugar (calories).
    Reduce or avoid or minimize coffee and tea. Avoid alcohol entirely.
  • Eat healthy, wholegrain and vegetables (÷ white bread/+ wholegrain, ÷ candy/+ nuts, etc.). “You must choose, but choose wisely.”
  • Eat in moderation. Choose a small or medium size portion.
    Find something else to do than eating, while you wait for your plane.

You do not have to be fanatic. If you are on holiday, there should be room for less healthy snacks (if so desired). But if you are a frequent traveller, e.g. jobrelated, it is wise to make some healthier choices in order to stay fit and healthy.

Example of a gradual habit change (‘detox’):

Large chai latte > small chai latte > green tea > water
Two croissants > one croissant > a small croissant > some almonds
A chocolate bar > half a chocolate bar > grapes > carrots

Happy and healthy travelling!