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Happy Holidays but don’t forget to exercise

By Liz Montes

Control what we do during the holiday season? Really! Tis the season for over-eating, over-drinking, and just plain over-indulgence. Tis is also the season of under-exercising or no-exercising.

Make note, a recent study published in The Journal of Physiology, scientists discovered that even short daily bouts of exercise will help keep the pounds off during the holiday season. You don’t have to gain the average weight of five to ten pounds during the holidays; as many Americans do.

Scientists at the University of Bath asked their healthy volunteers to just sit around and gorge themselves. The scientists wanted to study what effect this would have on otherwise healthy people. They found in short that the act of overeating and inactivity combined can spark a series of ill effects in a very short period of time. Sometimes, in just a week! Bummer, I know, but again we are reminded that we must keep moving to stay healthy.

The conclusions in fact indicated that short bouts of exercise can blunt the ill effects of overeating and under-working out. However, scientists also discovered, as we’ve heard so much about, especially from me, that the physiological effects extend way beyond just burning up the excess calories.

The scientist’s methods were simple. They divided two groups of very healthy men; one group ran every day at a moderately intense pace for 45 minutes. The other group did nothing. Meanwhile, both groups were told to move as minimally as possible. Basically, taking all the volunteers daily steps from 10,000 to 4,000, as gauged by pedometers. The group that ran did not have their steps included in the overall step count. The runners except when running were as inactive as the other group.

Both groups were directed to begin overeating. The group that was not exercising increased their caloric intake by 50 percent. The group that exercised increased their caloric intake by 75 percent, with the additional 25 percent of calories designed to replace the energy burned during exercise. Overall, the idea being that the net daily energy surplus was the same.

The results were amazing. After only one week, the volunteers who had not exercised displayed a significantly unhealthy decline in their blood sugar control. And, their biopsied fat cells seemed to have run amok. Remember, before the experiment all volunteers were evaluated and confirmed that all were healthy. All were found to have normal metabolism and blood sugar control; none showed symptoms of diabetes. Therefore, indicating that the lack of exercise was beginning to show metabolic changes. Remember, metabolic changes are generally one of the first indicators of loss of blood sugar control.

Yikes, would that mean diabetes is next? This method of testing the genes, which is very sophisticated, were now indicating various gene changes and some were contributing to unhealthy metabolic changes. Likewise, indicating unhealthy changes in the genes that were important for the well-functioning of the metabolism.

The exercise group despite the diet changes was not similarly afflicted. Dr. Dylan Thompson, professor of health sciences and author of this study said “exercise seemed to completely cancel out many of the changes induced by over-feeding and reduced activity.” The exercise group was still better off even though they had engaged in the same unhealthy lifestyle.

Of course, the practical message to take home is that if you are going to be partying and overeating, like many of us will during this holiday season, at least get out and do some exercise. Dr. Thompson says that daily bouts of exercise will prevent many of the negative changes, at least in the short term. Of course, the doctor also pointed out that the study was conducted with healthy individuals. However, he indicated that the findings would likely apply to other groups, like older adults and women. And even with lesser amounts of training. Go ahead, enjoy your holidays but get out and move around too.

Happy Holidays!


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