It’s the holidays. You’re probably going to cheat. We get it. But just because your nutrition plan made the naughty list, that doesn’t mean your exercise regime should follow suit. In fact, a new study in the Journal of Physiology reveals that sticking to your workouts helps counteract the negative effects of holiday binging—including Cousin Jerry’s rum eggnog—and the benefits extend beyond burnt calories.
Researchers at the University of Bath in England asked 26 healthy young men to pork out in the name of science. All participants were otherwise inactive (fewer than 4,000 steps per day), but half of them paid a daily, 45-minute visit to the treadmill while the other half continued slothing. (Calorie intakes were adjusted to account for energy burned during exercise: the non-exercising group consumed 50 percent more calories, the exercising group ingested 75 percent more.)
After just one week, the sloth group showed a substantial decline in blood sugar control. Furthermore their fat cells overexpressed genes linked to unhealthy metabolic changes while under-expressing genes associated with a healthy metabolism. Blood sugar levels for the exercise group, however, remained stable, and the fat cells of its participants showed less “undesirable” genetic expression.
“If you are facing a period of over-consumption and inactivity, which is probably quite common around Christmastime,” said politically incorrect senior author of the research Dylan Thompson, “then our study shows that a daily bout of exercise will prevent many of the negative changes from taking place even though you are gaining weight.”
In other words, multiple visits to the (insert your holiday here) buffet will have a negative impact on your health, but staying the course with your workouts will mitigate the damage, so keep pushing play!