Turkey dinners, eggnog and fruitcake galore! Champagne toasts and four-course meals! The holidays have come and gone and, for many of us, our waistlines have paid the price. While you might tell yourself that a few days of overindulgence can do you no harm, you may need to face a reality check about the negative impacts of short-term inactivity and overeating. But don’t fret – there’s hope yet. New research shows that exercise can counter these harmful effects and get you back on track.
The Benefits of Exercise
Consuming a larger number of calories than you can burn for even a few days can begin to have a negative effect on your health. According to research published in The Journal of Physiology, exercising on a daily basis can help you offset the harmful effects of inactivity and overeating. Conducted by researchers at the University of Bath, the study shows that daily exercise can do more than simply burn off those pesky holiday calories.
The study traced 26 healthy, regularly active young male volunteers who consumed a larger number of calories than usual for a week. While the physical activity of half the volunteers was restricted, the other half ran on a treadmill for 45 minutes daily. The former group was given 50% more calories than they typically consume, whereas the latter group was given 75% more to account for the additional calories they were burning.
So what did the results show?
The difference between the two groups astonished the researchers. The inactive group’s blood sugar control deteriorated and metabolisms decreased. In the group that was doing more exercise, blood sugar levels didn’t drop and metabolism remained more stable. High-intensity exercise successfully counterbalanced the negative effects of the added calories.
Exercise: Your Saving Grace
Whether you tend to do a lot of holiday eating or chow down whenever you’re on vacation, try to incorporate some exercise every day, whether it’s a quick game of basketball or a light jog by the beach. Even if you gain a few pounds, the exercise will serve to counteract a lot of the potential damage you can do to your health by packing in the calories. That being said, there are ways to enjoy the holidays or vacations without overdoing it.
Even if you’re eating foods you don’t normally eat, try to be mindful of your portions. Use a salad plate and fork throughout the meal to reduce your portions without feeling like your plate is empty. Also, do your best to limit your alcohol intake.
Do your utmost to plan in advance. If you’re cooking a festive meal, try to incorporate healthy courses. If you’re bringing a dish to someone’s home, offer to bring a salad, lean protein or vegetarian side. This way, you know you have something healthy to fill up on. Try and get a good night’s sleep and stay hydrated with water and herbal teas.
Last but not least, if you do overindulge, don’t punish yourself. We’ve ushered in 2014 – what better a time to re-evaluate your healthy living goals. If you aren’t regularly active, try to find physical activities that you enjoy and a workout partner to keep you motivated. If you aren’t getting the nutrients you need, challenge yourself to introduce a new healthy food into your diet every week.
Good luck boosting your metabolism with exercise in the new year!