Exercise daily to cancel out the indulgence
Don’t abandon the gym or walking circuit and you can truly enjoy the little luxuries of the festive season
You can eat and drink what you like over the Christmas period, so long as you exercise every day. A walk, run or a cycle will cancel out all the extra indulgence. Photograph: Getty Images
The season of good cheer deserves to also be the season of good news. And boy, have I got good news for you.
The published results of a recent study, led by Prof Dylan Thompson, of the department of health sciences at the University of Bath, seem on the face of it to be something that was most likely nicknamed “The John Belushi Project” by the team involved in the research.
Basically, they got together two groups of fit young men, and invited them to pig out.
One group increased their caloric intake by 50 per cent, while the second group upped the eating and drinking binge by 75 per cent.
Oh, and the dudes were also told that there was no need to walk anywhere, so they were allowed to reduce the number of steps they took on an average day from 10,000 to below 4,000.
So, lots of sedentary action – lots of telly, lots of sitting in front of a nice, toasty fire, lots of gaming. And lots to eat and drink. Lots.
Does this sound familiar? Telly, grub, gaming, nice, toasty fire, another drink before dinner, dear?
It’s not really the late John Belushi, and his infamous Animal House behaviour, that we’re talking about here. We are talking about all of us, and how we behave at Christmas: too much to eat and drink, and little or no exercise, because we’re watching telly and it’s cold outside, and who’s got the Áine’s chocolates?
So, what happens if you do that sort of thing for a week? The researchers at Bath University discovered some startling outcomes.
After only a week, one group had a significant decline in their blood sugar control.
Their fat cells were over-expressing genes that contribute to unhealthy metabolic changes, and at the same time they were under-expressing genes that are important for our metabolisms to function properly.
Oh dear. And Christmas to New Year is . . . a week. A week of partying and eating and telly and not going anywhere or doing anything much. A week when your blood sugar and your fat cells go berserk.
But, this is a good news piece, remember, and here is the good news.
The two groups of fit young men differed in one regard: one bunch did the bingeing and the sitting around, and the other bunch did the bingeing and sitting around, but also did 45 minutes each day on the treadmill, at a moderately intense pace.
For this second group, there were no negative health consequences.
All the eating and drinking and sitting in front of the fire (apart from the 45-minute workout each day) was cancelled by the exercise.
Their blood sugars were fine, their fat cells didn’t start firing up the bad stuff and cancelling out the good stuff.
And the incredible thing is that this group were the guys who were taking in 75 per cent more calories each day. Even despite out-eating their co-bingers, they had cancelled out any changes from the indulging simply by exercising.
Now you know exactly why people go for a Christmas morning swim, and for that big post-lunch Christmas day walk. The University of Bath study shows one simple thing: you can do what you like and eat and drink what you like, so long as you also exercise every day.