Health and Fitness: Challenge yourself in the last six weeks of the year

You always hear plenty of people taking on 12-week health and fitness challenges once the new year rolls around.

I am generally one of them, setting a raft of resolutions to undo all the damage from an under-active and over-indulgent festive season.

But this year I am taking a pre-emptive strike and setting myself a six-week end-of-year challenge to do 40 minutes of exercise for 40 days.

There is actually 42 days until January 1, which allows for two days off.

There is nothing worse than that feeling at the start of the year when you are super keen to get fit but your first session feels like you are towing a truck. Setting yourself a goal now is a great way to stay motivated. 

I am also turning 40 this month so I figure doing 40 minutes of fitness for 40 days is a good way to celebrate entering a new decade.

Each week for the next six weeks I will share a 40-minute session or two on this page to hopefully inspire others into an end-of-year challenge.

You could also create a Christmas-New Year fitness planner. At this time of year most people are busy scheduling social events and Christmas shows, but planning ahead with some fitness can help keep yourself in check.

A few of the region’s parkruns will hold an extra event on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

If you are more of a swimmer then the Nobbys to Newcastle Ocean Swim is being held in January and it should provide some added motivation to keep training.

A 40-minute options this week would be: 40 minutes of running, walking, swimming or cycling. Or do 10 minutes of walking/running followed by 10 minutes of swimming. Then repeat.


A 200 per cent rise in the number of women with gestational diabetes in the Hunter region over the past five years has prompted nutrition researchers from the University of Newcastle to trial a new diabetes risk-reduction program called Body Balance Beyond.

The study aims to help women avoid a recurrence of the condition in subsequent pregnancies or prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes and researchers are recruiting mothers who have recently had gestational diabetes.

Professor Clare Collins is the chief investigator of the study and said this year over 500 Hunter women developed gestational diabetes.

“It means these women have a seven-times higher risk of developing Type-2 diabetes within the next five to 10 years, and their children are also more likely to develop the disease,” Professor Collins said.

“While women with gestational diabetes are generally well supported during their pregnancy, once they have their baby there are no prevention programs designed specifically for them.”

The study, funded by Diabetes Australia and the Hunter Medical Research Institute, is recruiting 90 mums. Find out more at or email


During spring, Mullen Natural Health Centre’s Peter Mullen has been offering some tips and recipes for healthier eating options.

This week it’s a side dish of Asian greens with ginger and shallots:

Ingredients: 1 tbsp of rice bran oil, 2 shallots chopped into bite-sized pieces, 1 tbsp of chopped ginger, 1 cup of broccoli cut into bite size pieces, 2 cups of chopped Asian green vegetables, chopped (bok choy, choy sum, pak choy, amaranth leaves, Chinese cabbage, Chinese kale), 1 tbsp of tamari, 1 tsp of sesame oil. Method: Heat rice bran oil in a pan and add shallots, ginger and broccoli. Cook for 3 minutes or until broccoli is almost cooked. Add Asian green vegetables and tamari and stir fry until cooked. Remove from the heat and toss with sesame oil before serving.

Spring loaded session week #12

Here is a 40-minute session you could do at the gym, park, beach or at home:

Part 1: 10 minutes strength. 1 minute each of squats, squat jumps, push-ups, mountain climbers (or standing shuffles), ab rotation with weight then repeat. 

Part 2: 10 minutes of intervals. This could be running, walking, riding, rowing, swimming, skipping. 1 minute harder followed by 1 minute easier. 

Part 3: 10 minutes strength. 1 minutes each of diagonal lunges, pull-ups/rows, dead lifts, burpees or step-ups, prone back extension then repeat. 

Part 4: Repeat Part 2.

Upcoming fitness events

Variety Xmas Walk Newcastle, December 10, Speers Point Park: A 5km walk for the whole family to support kids living with a disability this Christmas.

Nobbys to Newcastle Ocean Swim, Nobbys beach, January 27: A 2km ocean swim from Nobbys lighthouse to Newcastle beach.

Newcastle City Triathlon, February 25, Newcastle Foreshore: Offering a range of distances to suit all, be it novices to the advanced, and a good challenge for the new year for individuals or teams.

Renee Valentine is a writer, qualified personal trainer and mother of three.