December 5, 2016
Last Updated:
March 4, 2021

Can Exercise Make Up for Overeating? An Important New Study Weighs In

It’s easy to overeat during the holiday season because of all the events that revolve around food. Everywhere you look, tempting treats abound—whether it’s during the holiday celebration at your office, dinner at grandma’s or the cookie-decorating party at your friend’s house. This can all contribute to a bunch of weight gain by the time the New Year starts.

But a new study says there’s one way to counter the indulgence: Exercise consistently. In fact, University of Michigan researchers have found that regular exercise can shield against a week of overeating.

For this pilot study, published by the American Physiological Society, four adults were instructed to eat 30 percent more calories than usual for a week while continuing to exercise at least six days a week (for a total of at least 150 minutes).

The result: Exercise countered the effects of a brief period of overeating and protected fat tissue from changes in inflammation and fat metabolism.

In addition, the subjects didn’t experience a change in glucose tolerance or the chemical breakdown of fat. Previous studies have shown that even a week of overeating can negatively affect glycemic control and insulin sensitivity, ScienceDaily reports.

Even though this was a small study, it offers some promising news for shielding against weight gain during a season of eat, eat, eat. The catch is, of course, that you have to exercise consistently if you’re going to overeat, and the overeating can’t extend from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.

Aside from exercise, there are many other ways to stay the healthy course. At Integrative Nutrition, we’re fans of “fitting out”, meaning being yourself and continuing your healthy habits no matter where you go. We also believe in “crowding out”: i.e., adding more wholesome foods to your diet so there’s less room for junk.

Remember that it’s easy to just let health fly out the window during this time of year, but by maintaining a balance between indulging and keeping your usual routine, you’ll start 2017 with your best (and most active) foot forward. 

Do you tend to overeat during the holiday season? What do you do, if anything, to ensure you get back on track following overindulgences? Share in the comments below!

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