There’s the pie and the hand-dipped chocolates, the platters of cookies and mugs of rich hot chocolate. There are the plates piled high with creamy, buttery, delicious foods. There are also the stresses of getting things done: the packages bought and wrapped and shipped, the parties organized and executed, the halls decked and the atmosphere just right.
Those, in themselves, are excellent reasons to set aside an hour a day — everyday — for some moderate exercise. You’ll gain more self-control to keep you from overeating as well as more energy so you can use the rest of your time well. Plus, you’ll keep those stress levels in check so that the holidays actually are a happy time of year.
But, good as those reasons are, they are not the most important reason you should go on an exercise streak this holiday season. That most important reason is simply that it appears that daily exercise can cancel out the negative effects of overeating and lazing around more than you usually might as we often do during the holidays. The New York Times reported this week on a study done at the University of Bath in England in which healthy young men were split into two groups. Each group was told to eat more and move less (less than 4,000 steps a day as counted on pedometers, instead of their normal 10,000+ steps), but one group was also told to exercise at a moderate intensity for 45 minutes a day.
The groups kept this up for a week, after which they were subject to the same poking and prodding they had undergone before the experiment started: a basic health assessment including fat biopsies and blood sugar measurements. And after just one week the results of these tests showed, strikingly, that the exercise group did not display the same decline in blood sugar control, nor had their fat cells developed the same worrisome metabolic changes that the non-exercisers had developed. This, despite the fact that both groups consumed many more calories than they were burning even with the exercise accounted for. (The study was published online in the Journal of Physiology.)
So yes, exercising every day during the holidays will likely help you keep off unwanted weight and have greater self-control to resist unhealthy food. It will also likely cheer you up and keep your energy high. But the most important thing is that it will keep your body healthy and functioning properly on the foundational levels.
Going on an exercise streak is no easy feat especially during this time of year when the cold is still new enough to cause us to shrink away from it as we curl under our Snugglies on the couch. But, as I’ve found, the cold is not nearly as bad once you’re out in it as it is in your head. And once you get moving, you warm right up so that it’s actually fun to be outside. So what do you say? Are you up for a weight gain-fighting, stress-reducing, health-promoting, life-affirming holiday exercise streak? Well then, I hearby challenge you to exercise every day between now and 2014!
(But don’t worry if you miss a day just pick it right back up again the next day and keep going!)
photo credit: Lizzie Heiselt