Many of us have already packed our holiday season with so much work and back-to-back programmes we hardly have time to breathe. The little time we can squeeze out is used to stuff ourselves with food and drinks, but just for this season we may be able to spend 5minutes each day to make a difference in our lives so that we can have time to sing and dance to “Joy to the World.”

We all wish our favourite exercises will give us the same benefits as all other exercises but the truth is that some exercises are “more equal than others” just as happens in every aspect of life.

This does not mean if you are unable to perform the most effective exercises, you should exert yourself and cause injury to your body. Remember, Cobba’s First Law of Exercising is “DO NO HARM”.

It is also worth remembering that if we overeat or decide to load ourselves with desserts and other foods that our senses continue to warn us about then these “makeshift” exercises will stand no chance. If you just cannot trust yourself with food and you have to be at several parties then it may be better to eat enough at home so that you spend more time chatting rather than eating.

These exercises may just help you stay afloat this Christmas:

  • Squats
  • Plank
  • Push-Ups
  • Walking& Dancing


Every single rep (repetition) in this exercise is worth the effort.

Squats target the quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteals, which in simple language refers to the thigh muscles and buttocks.

It is important to learn the right technique and since it exercises large muscle groups, you are able to burn a lot of calories with squats.

In every exercise session, it is important to work large muscles before the smaller ones.


  1. Keep feet shoulder width apart
  2. Back should be straight (standing posture)
  3. Bend knees and lower your rear till your thighs are horizontal.
  4. Return to the standing position
  5. Repeat steps 1-4
  6. Remember to stretch the muscles used after the exercise.

If you have difficulty following the steps above, place a chair behind you and with your back straight try to sit on it. Do not let your buttocks touch the seat, then return to the standing position and repeat. As your technique improves, you may remove the chair.

As one gets stronger you may even carry some weights while doing squats but as always start with caution. You may do only 3 reps at a time (properly). Gradually add some more.


  • Severe knee pain irrespective of cause
  • Knee injury even if no longer painful (you will need professional supervision)
  • Acute back pain (you will later do back slides which is similar to squats and helps strengthen back muscles)

This exercise benefits almost everyone with a lifestyle disease. Hypertensives (those with high blood pressure) even get a bonus since it causes peripheral pooling of blood and helps to lower the blood pressure over time.


Arguably the safest exercise for strengthening abdominal muscles and also has the added benefit of strengthening lower back muscles. Especially for people who sit for long hours (you shouldn’t anyway) this is great news for helping your back.

  1. Start by getting into a push-up position
  2. Bend your elbows and rest your weight on your forearms and not on your hands
  3. Support your lower body on your toes
  4. Your body should form a straight line from shoulders to ankles just like a plank of wood
  5. Engage your core (midsection) by sucking your belly button into your spine
  6. Hold this position for the prescribed time. This may vary from 5 seconds to 1 minute. Repeat.


This is probably the first exercise most people try out; well apart from laughter and walking I presume and everyone is familiar with it.

Go ahead and squeeze a minute a day in there.


Before you set out to exercise your muscles remember to walk at least a minute before you start and a minute after you are done.

You may even walk while in one place, what matters is moving your legs and arms and getting your heart to pump.

Use every opportunity during the day to:

  • use the stairs instead of the elevator
  • walk while you talk on your cell phone
  • Walk to a colleague’s desk at the office instead of using the phone or sending someone else.
  • Pick your own stuff for cooking instead of sitting and getting people to assist with even the trivial errands
  • Dance with your heart whenever you have a chance; during your Christmas programmes, while watching TV and even while you take a shower.

A minute each for Squats, Planks and Push-ups and two minutes of walking every morning, afternoon or evening may just be enough to get you through the holiday season and certainly it will not tamper much with your tight holiday schedule.


Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel

Health Essentials Ltd/Mobissel/St. Andrews Clinic


*Dr. Essel is a Medical Doctor, holds an MBA and is ISSA certified in exercise therapy, fitness nutrition and corrective exercise.

Thought for the week – “Studies have shown that intense and unresolved anger increases the risk of heart attack .The good news: Laughing has been found to be beneficial for your heart.


  • The Gym Bible
  • Mayo Clinic “Essential Heart Guide’ 2012
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