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!

Express Fitness # 2: Circuit Training For Travel or Home

Marina Aagaard, MFE

Get fit and healthy in no time; work out smarter, not harder. Whether you are staying at home or travelling, you can get a super workout with bodyweight, beams, bars or furniture or fitness equipment. The most timeefficient way of getting an all-round resistance and cardio workout is:

  • Circuit training (complex or simple, but always fast and fun).

IMG_5656Circuit training (back exercise) at Elefant hotel, Riga, Latvia.

Circuit training can be either 1) pure cardio, 2) pure resistance or 3) a mix. The latter is the preferred method in fitness; after each cardio exercise, there is a resistance exercise.

Station/exercise time: Norm: 30 seconds or 1 minute (or 10-16 repetitions).
Total number of exercises: Typically 8-12 (range e.g. 4-20).
Total number of rounds: 1-5. After one round; repeat circuit 1-4 times. 

In circuit training, as opposed to interval training, you do not pause: Keep moving; this provides additional cardiovascular work. When you finish one exercise, you hurry to the next station/exercise. Perform 1-4 rounds. Do not plan to have 10-15 seconds for changing stations, change as fast as possible.

7 minute HICT bodyweight circuit 

Perform each exercise for 30 seconds and high intensity with good form (HICT article with exercise photos):

1. Jumping Jack
2. Wall sit (wall squat)
3. Push-up
4. Abdominal crunch
5. Step-up, e.g. onto chair
6. Squat
7. Triceps dips on chair
8. Plank
9. High kneelifts,
10. Lunge
11. Push-up with torso rotation
12. Side plank

5 minute basic strength machine circuit (ex warm-up)

Perform 10-12 repetitions of each exercise and immediately proceed to the next station/exercise. Perform 1-3 rounds. (fitness circuit clip)

  • Leg press or squat
  • Chest press or bench press
  • Rowing, horizontal
  • Shoulder press
  • Lat pulldown, vertical
  • Back extension
  • Ab curl

Have a go. It is nice for variation and intensity, isn’t it?

Express Fitness # 1: Interval Training For Travel or Home

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Stay fit and healthy without wasting time. Even if you are travelling, on holiday or have a busy life with little time for exercising, you need to take care of your health, the foundation of fitness, wellness and performance. The good news is, that you can have great results with minimal time investment. The number one option is:

  • Interval training (yes, it’s for you, no, it’s not just for athletes)

Interval running for travel fitness or home fitness

Interval running on the Zaton Holiday Resort, Croatia, (soft) running track. Nice .

Interval training
As the saying goes: With interval training you will double your results in half the time!
Or something to that effect …
The definition: A series of repetitions of a work period (higher intensity) followed by a rest period (low intensity).

The (active) rest periods are crucial to succes; you need to recover in order to put just as much energy into the next work period: So no push-ups etc. during rest periods, that is not interval training. 

More and more recent research points to interval training for just 3-4 minutes per time/week as enough for becoming healthy and fit and even loose weight.
In reality, though, this is too little, as you need 1) a warm-up and cool-down and 2) to train at higher intensities, than most will be able to, to get the mentioned results.

Interval training is, however, the number one way to get fit fast for everybody. Interval training is not just very high intensity training. It is interval work at intensities higher than during continuus exercise. This means, that exercising just a little harder than you normally do will work!
Of course, if you are in shape, you should work at high intensity to get even better results.

There are numerous ways to do interval training and it can be tailor-made to meet specific needs. You can have short intervals or long intervals or fartlek, various speeds and intensities. All intervals, though, will improve your cardiovascular fitness and body composition.

If you are new to interval training try these super-easy sample programs:

  • 5 repetitions: 1 : 1 min., e.g. jog for 1 minute, walk for 1 min.: 10 min. ex. warm-up.
  • 10 repetitions: 30 : 30 sec., e.g. jog for 30 sec., walk 30 sec.: 10 min. ex. warm-up.


  • From lamppost/tree to lamppost/tree: Run/jog/powerwalk as fast as you can.
    Then walk, focus on breathing, to the next lamppost/tree. Repeat 5-20 times.

Try it. What do you think?

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!

Journey of The Day: Wellness Isn’t Far Away!

By Marina Aagaard, MFT

First fitness: A morning jog with the dog.
Then wellness: A visit to the spa down the road.
Mindbody activities go together for balance in life.

Work can wait. Thanks to a friend I get an opportunity to go to the spa right now. So I go from a ‘construction site’ (home) just 11 miles up the road to a haven, very well-kept mega-lawn, Lübker Golf Resort, designed by Robert Trent Jones, and Lübker Spa.

IMG_3082Sauna in the background, 85 degr. C (185 F), cold tub in front, 10 degr. C (50 F).
You make no friends by waving a camera around in a spa, also it is not allowed;
this was shot by kind permission and no other users in sight.

Would anyone in their right mind go to a spa in the middle of summer? Yes, they would!
If they have insider information of all the benefits of hot-cold water therapy: Improved blood circulation, recovery, immune defense, skin care, anti-aging, mindbody relaxation …


  1. Whirlpool gentle massage
  2. Steam bath
  3. Foot bath, 5 x hot cold water therapy
  4. Hot tub outside (sun shining, a surprise)
  5. Sauna +
  6. Cold tub (4 x hot cold theraphy)

Footbath spa and wellness         Hot cold water therapy

Happy feet! Nice: Go for a walk through a hot and cold bath and two kinds of stones. I opt for an extra round or two or three. Supertip: Walk with bare feet, e.g. on sand, for a free foot massage and excellent sensory stimulation; for the neuromuscular system and brain.

IMG_3086Lunch at café. Tuna salad with smoked tuna, lettuce, cucumber, onion,
mozzarella, pine nuts and more. My tastebuds are on a journey, too.

It is going to be a good weekend …

111 Excellent Reasons for Exercising: Choose Life and Fitness

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

You already know, that fitness is good for you. But not just that. Fitness exercise is fun and it works:
There are all kinds of fitness exercise for both sexes, all ages, all levels and in  many forms; one and one fitness, two and two fitness, group fitness, soft fitness, hard fitness, indoor fitness, outdoor fitness, land fitness, water fitness, cold fitness, hot fitness, bodyweight fitness, equipment fitness, machine fitness.
There are no limits. So there should be no lack of motivation?
However, just in case, here are (not just the usual 10) 111 excellent reasons for doing fitness exercise. 

Fitness and exercise for health, performance and wellness

  1. Improves mood; increases happiness level.
  2. Increases energy level, more mental and physical strength.
  3. Improves sex; increases desire, agility and stamina.
  4. Reduces stress, eases tension short-term and long-term.
  5. Relaxes and calms you.
  6. Energizes you, reduces general fatigue.
  7. Fights depression.
  8. Trains your brain, creates new synapses, ‘nerve cell junctions’.
  9. Prevents cognitive deterioration, e.g. dementia.
  10. Reduces risk of Alzheimer’s disease (loss of brain function and memory a.o.).
  11. Reduces risk of Parkinson’s disease (slow movements, stiffness and shaking, because of lack of dopamine in the brain).
  12. Reduces neck pain, headaches and migraine.
  13. Improves concentration.
  14. Improves the ability to relax (mind and muscles).
  15. Sharpens your senses.
  16. Increases self-confidence.
  17. Improves self-worth.
  18. Improves creativity, because of more oxygen and clarity.
  19. Increases wellness.
  20. Increases longevity, e.g. strength training is superior for anti-aging.
  21. Prevents age related loss of muscles, maintains muscle mass.
  22. Helps maintain function in old age.
  23. Prevents overweight and obesity.
  24. Helps slimming in the right way; promotes fat loss.
  25. Assists weight maintenance; life long healthy weight.
  26. Improves body composition; better muscle to fat ratio.
  27. Shapes, tones and builds muscles for a better-looking body.
  28. Improves you skin; improved blood circulation and elasticity.
  29. Improves general stamina, mentally and physically.
  30. Improves immune defence (is, however, weakened after exercise, from 8 hours to 3 days, depending on intensity and duration).
  31. Prevents metabolic syndrome; Abdominal fat, insulin resistance, hypertension (high blood pressure) and hyperlipidemia (high lipid levels).
  32. Prevents and improves hyperlipidemia, too high concentration of cholesterol and triglycerides (fat) in your blood.
  33. Prevents atherosclerosis.
  34. Lowers ‘bad’ LDL-cholesterol.
  35. Increases ‘good’ HDL-cholesterol.
  36. Increases blood vessel elasticity.
  37. Reduces the risk of blood clots.
  38. Strengthens your heart; a stronger heart pumps more blood.
  39. Lowers resting heart rate; less wear on the heart and arteries.
  40. Increases the number of capillaries (small blood vessels) resulting in better oxygen supply.
  41. Increases the number of mitochondria (small ‘energy factories in the muscle cells).
  42. Increases work capacity; increased capacity, when the body is under pressure, stress.
  43. Improves metabolic fitness.
  44. Improves cardiovascular fitness.
  45. Increases caloric expenditure during exercise.
  46. Increases caloric expenditure after exercise, afterburn (EPOC).
  47. Increases caloric expenditure during rest.
  48. Increases fat burning during endurance training and improves the ability to conserve energy, glucose, during endurance training.
  49. Improves insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake.
  50. Reduces lactic acid build up during submaximal training.
  51. Improves oxygen uptake.
  52. Strengthens the respiratory muscles; stronger breathing.
  53. Lowers blood pressure (reduces hypertension), which limits wear to the heart and vessels and reduces risk of disease.
  54. Strengthens your muscles.
  55. Improves power (explosive strength).
  56. Improves muscle endurance.
  57. Increases body awareness.
  58. Improves fine and gross motor skills.
  59. Improves coordination, control of arms, legs and core.
  60. Improves coordination of balls and equipment.
  61. Improves timing.
  62. Improves reaction (time).
  63. Improves rhythm.
  64. Improves spacial awareness.
  65. Improves general stability.
  66. Improves static balancing; e.g. standing on your toes.
  67. Improves dynamic balancing; e.g. stair walking or hopping.
  68. Reduces the risk of falling and having an accident, e.g. a fracture.
  69. Improves agility, reaction and quickness.
  70. Improves performance in all sports.
  71. Increases the enjoyment of all recreational activities.
  72. Increases the suppleness of the muscles.
  73. Prevents tightness and limited mobility.
  74. Increases range of motion, ROM, making all movements easier.
  75. Reduces pain, discomfort and disease due to limited ROM.
  76. Improves posture, gives a healthier, stronger, slender look.
  77. Improves sleep quality.
  78. Improves vision; not the lens, but the ability to use the eyes better; focus on things up close and at a distance and peripheral vision.
  79. Provides fresh air (during outdoor activity; preferably in clean air).
  80. Provides time and opportunity for self-development.
  81. Gives new experiences and variety.
  82. Gives something else to talk about than the weather and tv.
  83. You see, hear, feel (touch), smell (and maybe taste) something new.
  84. You have a good time with family and friends.
  85. You meet new friends.
  86. You find a boyfriend or a girlfriend (spouse).
  87. Prevent, cure or relieve type 2-diabetes.
  88. Improve general health and insulin sensitivity in type 1-diabetes.
  89. Prevent certain forms of cancer, fx colon, breast, prostate.
  90. Improves health and resilience during cancer disease.
  91. Prevents and relieves many cardiovascular diseases.
  92. Prevents, cures and improves chance of surviving ischemic heart disease, atherosclerosis.
  93. Prevents and reduces atherosclerosis of the legs (claudicatio intermittens).
  94. Improves the chance of survival and reduces fatigue following heart failure (various conditions).
  95. Improves function, gait, motor skills and tactile function following stroke.
  96. Prevents and cures osteoporosis.
  97. Prevents, cures or relieves many musculoskeletal disorders.
  98. Prevents, cures or relieves back aches or back pain (strengthens, stabilises and moves).
  99. Prevents, reduces or relieves many hip problems.
  100. Prevent, reduces or relieves many knee problems.
  101. Improves resilience and reduces pain of fibromyalgia, diffuse tendon and muscle pain of minimum 3 months duration.
  102. Prevent, reduces or relieves osteoarthritis.
  103. Improves resilience and relieves rheumatoid arthritis.
  104. Improves strength, stamina and insulin sensitivity, health (some evidence), of women with PCOS, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (multiple cysts in the ovaries), and related conditions.
  105. Improves function, gait, resilience and quality of life of sclerosis sufferers (disseminated or multiple sclerosis), an autoimmune disease affecting the the brain and nervous system; lack of muscle control, numbness and fatique.
  106. Improves resilience and relieves hypersensitivity (e.g. allergy).
  107. Improves resilience and and quality of life of HIV-infected (no impact on virus or immune system).
  108. Improves stamina, ventilation and quality of life of asthma sufferers.
  109. Prevents, cures or relieves certain mental disorders in different ways, e.g. anxiety and schizophrenia.
  110. Improves stamina and reduces fatigue in chronic fatigue syndrome, persistent exhaustion and various symptoms, e.g. fever, muscle pain, headache a.o.
  111. Improves resilience and ventilation, and relieves and reduces fatigue of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease sufferers.

It sounds almost too good to be true, but it is true.

Requirements: It is dream fitness, according to needs and desires (possible following ‘basic training’) and healthy fitness, individually adapted to health, form, physique and goals, e.g. specific in relation to frequency, intensity, time (duration) and type in order to elicit the expected results.

Fitness for all.


Fysisk aktivitet – haandbog om forebyggelse og behandling
Sundhedsstyrelsen (2011)

Pedersen, Bente Klarlund (2003): Recept paa motion – motion som forebyggelse. NNF.

Pedersen, Bente Klarlund (2005): Motion paa recept – motion som behandling. NNF.

Aagaard, Marina (2006): Fitness – i bedre form på kortere tid.

Aagaard, Marina (2012): Fitness og styrketraening – oevelser, programmer og metoder.

Habit Change: Fitness And Wellness: Start Now With These 3 Steps.

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Habit change is not all that easy, because your habits of the last 10-20 years do not just disappear in 1-2 weeks. With the right strategy, however, it is possible to:

  • Build healthy habits that last
  • Maximize wellness and life quality
  • Perform and feel better
  • Get fit (in and out of the gym)
  • Lose or maintain weight with a smile 

Healthy habit tips for fitness and wellness

The key to success is keeping it simple. For starters do just 3 things :

  • Start now, don’t wait. Make a deal with yourself: Today is the day: Start by making one (small) change, just one habit change at a time, and stay on track.
  • Prepare (keep all temptations out of the way, make healthy choices easier).
  • Take one step at a time, make small increment changes – these will last.

Go ahead. Do it now.
More tips will follow.