Getting fit is one of the most common New Year resolutions and the most commonly broken too. Little wonder when in December so many of us drift away from our fitness goals.

So instead of lapsing now, use December to get off to a walking start and take your walking habit with you into the holiday season. Then, when the New Year comes, rather than facing a potentially defeating uphill hike, you'll be en-route to your exercise goals already.

Walking may not be as energetic as running or cycling, but studies suggest it can benefit our health, weight and fitness and boost mood too. Research from the University of East Anglia found group walking cut people's risk of life-threatening conditions, lowering average blood pressure, resting heart rate, body fat, weight, and cholesterol. Another study last year suggested nature-based group walks could help reduce feelings of depression.

What's more you can do it almost anywhere and any time, making it easy to manage even in the busy run up to Christmas.

So whether you're a fitness novice, an exercise phobe or just need a break from your usual workout routine, walking could be just the thing to take you through to the New Year. But remember, to get the full benefits you need to aim for a brisk walk, not just a gentle stroll.

Here are six steps from Dr Sally Norton, UK health expert, to help you walk your way to Christmas, and take you closer to your New Year fitness goals:

1. Use it as stepping stone

If you're just starting out on the road to fitness, use the pre-Christmas period to get off to a gentle start. Walking is a great way to gradually build up, without trying too hard. Aim for the NHS-recommended 10,000 steps a day, walking for at least 10 minutes a time. That's about 5 miles, which when you add up a day's walking isn't as much as it sounds. You could even buy a pedometer as an early Christmas pressie to yourself!

2. When you're too busy

If festive season shopping and socialising is getting in the way of your usual workout, then build some walking into your day. Use your feet to take you where you need to go - or if you're travelling by public transport or car, make sure you walk part of the way.

3. Wishing you'd stopped at one?

Feeling sluggish after a late night socialising? Instead of lying around feeling sorry for yourself, take a therapeutic walk outdoors. Fresh air and exercise is a great tonic and gets more than just your feet moving - it gets your body, your blood and your mind moving too. You won't find a better pick me up!

4. Make a tradition of it

One of the joys of the holiday period is that it's a chance to slow down, eat indulgent food and get together at home with family and friends. But that needn't mean giving up on exercise altogether! Try and get out for a walk every day - and make walking with friends and family one of your festive traditions.

5. Use it as a mood booster

Christmas can be a time of heightened emotions - and not all them good. Coping with loss, family differences, separation or loneliness can be tough when everyone around you seems in celebratory mood. But as well as keeping you healthy and fit, a walk in the fresh air can really boost your mood. So step outdoors and walk yourself to a better place.

6. Like a challenge?

For something more structured, try Vavista Life's It's suitable for almost anyone from couch potato to honed athlete - and by signing up in December, you'll start the New Year steps ahead.

So what are you waiting for! By stepping out now, you can approach the holiday season in a positive frame of mind and enjoy a guilt-free Christmas, feeling you deserve a few treats. What's more, it will probably spur you on to other healthier behaviours, so you're less tempted to overindulge. Then, come the New Year, you'll already be en-route to your healthier 2016.

Get fit this new year, start walking!

Get fit this new year, start walking!

by for

tagged in