You’ve been stuffing yourself with homemade fudge, hunks of cheese, and canapés -- what now? The solution may not be what you want to hear -- especially around the holidays -- but here it goes: exercise. It may counteract the effects of overeating, according to a new UK study.
Researchers asked one group to eat 50 percent more calories than normal for a week while remaining sedentary. Another group also overate but ran on a treadmill at a moderate-intense pace for 45 minutes daily. (The exercise group ate even more, giving both groups the same energy surplus.) Has your weight loss workout not been, well, working out? Try these 10 Slim-Down Strategies You Can Count On.
After seven days, being sedentary combined with a poor diet impaired insulin sensitivity and disrupted genes in fat tissue that help regulate hormones and proteins that control appetite and metabolism.
The fascinating results: Even though both groups gained weight, exercise offset the negative effects of overeating and helped restore metabolism back to normal. The exercise group also gained about two pounds less.
“There is something about exercise that helps offset the changes that are normally experienced when you eat more and move less,” says study senior author Dylan Thompson, PhD, a researcher at the University of Bath in the UK. They aren’t sure what that is but it could be the fact that your body uses more stored carbohydrate when you exercise or another factor related to muscle contraction. (A plan can help you stick to a walking routine, so try one of our 14 Walking Workouts To Burn Fat And Boost Energy.)
We get it: Exercise is probably the last thing on your brain during the holiday party season. But there are other reasons beyond maintaining your weight to fit in some gym time:
Buffer holiday stress: A study from Princeton University found that exercise helps reduce the brain’s response to stress and, in turn, quell anxiety. What’s more, other research from the University of Maryland found that an exercise session can help mitigate your emotional reaction to future stressful situations.
Beat bah-humbug thoughts: You feel chipper for as many as 12 hours after hitting the gym, per a study from the University of Vermont. If you can, get outside. “Green” exercise offers an even bigger mood boost. (Feel better the healthy, natural way with these 15 Mood-Boosting Foods.)
Help you focus: The holidays are prime time for distraction. But you can breeze through those last-minute tasks at work if you workout first. A meta-analysis in the British Medical Journal found that short bouts of activity improved executive functioning and self-control, perhaps by boosting blood flow to the brain.