Exercise combats Christmas excess

  • Deborah Condon

For many, Christmas is a time of excess - too much food, too much alcohol and too much sitting on the sofa doing little or nothing. However, a new study has found that a short bout of exercise every day can help people remain healthy, despite the extra calories they are consuming and weight they are gaining.

Previous research has shown that even a few days of consuming more calories than you burn can have detrimental health effects. UK researchers decided to look into this further.

They monitored 26 young men, all of whom were considered healthy. The men were asked to overeat and one half was asked to exercise daily on treadmill. The exercise group increased their caloric intake more than the non-exercise group so that everyone's net daily energy surplus - when you consume more calories than you burn - was the same.

The study found that after just one week of overeating, the participants displayed negative effects, such as poor blood sugar control and unhealthy metabolic changes. However, these effects were not as apparent in the people who exercised. For example, those who exercised had stable blood sugar levels.

"A critical feature of our experiment is that we matched the energy surplus between groups - so the exercise group consumed even more energy and were still better off at the end of the week," the researchers from the University of Bath explained.

They said that these findings show that exercise has positive effects ‘even when we are actively storing energy and gaining weight'.

"Our research demonstrates that a short period of overconsumption and reduced physical activity leads to very profound negative changes in a variety of physiological systems, but that a daily bout of exercise stops most of these negative changes from taking place," they said.

In other words, exercise prevents negative changes taking place in the body even if energy is still being stored.

"If you are facing a period of overconsumption and inactivity, which is probably quite common around Christmas time, 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," the researchers added.

Details of these findings are published in The Journal of Physiology.


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