December is the annual month of indulgence. Almost every single one of us forget all about our diet plans and allow a little break for the festive season. It’s good timing therefore that The Journal of Physiology has just published a study that suggests how valuable a bout of a daily exercise can be. The study shows that even a single daily dose can be enough to at least limit some of the effects of lounging around for the rest of the time.
Scientists at the University of Bath conducted a study which took 26 healthy men as test subjects. Each of the subjects exercised regularly and none were obese. Their health assessments showed that they had normal metabolisms and blood sugar control. The scientists then asked the volunteers to carry out activities that would impact negatively on their health – mainly by not exercising and gorging themselves.
The technical term for consuming more energy than burned is energy surplus. If energy surplus isn’t controlled it results in a huge number of health consequences including insulin resistant and metabolic problems. Overeating and inactivity both product energy surpluses in their own right so when combines the ill effects can be exacerbated. Even a few days of inactivity can have a negative impact on body’s which had been previously health.
Previous experiments have resulted in the belief that exercise limits the ill effects of energy surplus and it had been assumed this was due to it causing a reduction of the surplus. Some of the excess calories are burned off. However, like the scientists at Bath, some experts believe that exercise does more than simply burn off extra calories. The experts in this study were testing whether exercise has a physiological effect beyond just destroying surplus energy.
To test this theory the 26 test subjects were split into two groups – one were instructed to exercise moderately on a treadmill for 45 minutes a day, the other were not allowed to exercise at all. Both groups were also told to generally cut down their activity. They were told to keep their daily steps to less than 4000, through the use of pedometers and of course the treadmill steps were exempt from this.
Substantial overeating was also part of the study and both groups were told to increase their daily calorific intake by 50%. The two groups ended up with the same net daily energy surplus.
The experiment lasted just seven days when both groups then returned to the laboratory to be tested once more and to see how the study had effected their general fitness.
The results showed some very interesting findings that we can all take on board throughout the Christmas period. In just the week that they were told how to eat and behave the group of non-exercising test subjects saw significantly unhealthy decline in their blood sugar control. Their biopsied fat cells also saw some significant unhealthy metabolic changes.
The test subjects who exercised once a day, despite the same energy surpluses, did not have the same negative results. Their blood sugar remains steady and the fat cells were much less polluted with undesirable changes. This suggests that daily exercise really does make a difference.
The researchers have taken this study to show that exercise can in fact cancel out the changes that overeating and reduced activity cause. If it doesn’t completely destroy the changes, it softens them to a degree that they can be handled and perhaps obliterated with a long-term fitness plan.
It also brings hope to people who may not have thought they could get into a proper exercise regime. Some people still have the belief that an exercise regime needs to be an hour or two in the gym at least every other day. Instead you could give yourself half an hour a day and truly throw all your energy into it and it could still have a positive impact.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to indulge over the Christmas period but your body won’t thank you for it if you forget to exercise altogether! Even a small dose of exercise every day can be the tonic for your poor carb-filled body and perhaps you’ll feel like throwing yourself into a bit more once you feel the positive effects.
Of course this study only shows the results on a small, select type of person and would need to be tested on other types of people, including elder people and women, and perhaps those who had been inactive for some time. With a little more research we should be able to ascertain whether the daily dose of exercise really can be enough to counteract some of the negative effects of spending a day (or more) on the sofa with your favourite treats. For now, it’s best to do as much exercise as you can manage for the benefit of your body.