Christmas and New Year’s time is traditionally synonymous with overeating and sometimes inactivity. Many people dread putting on extra weight during their holiday. A new study published just around Christmas time in the prestigious Journal of Physiology suggests that many of the deleterious metabolic effects of this inactivity and overeating can be alleviated with a good daily dose of vigorous exercise.
Subjects of the study were 26 active men with an average age of 25. In keeping with the 7-day gap between Christmas and New Years, the researchers had subjects in one group consume either 50% extra calories than their habitual diet for 7 days, while those in the other group did the same with the exception that they ran on a treadmill each day for 45 mins at 70% of their maximum oxygen uptake. What’s more, the group doing the exercise were also given additional calories equivalent to the calories they expended during exercise – so that in theory, they were consuming as much ‘excess’ calories as the subjects in the non-exercise group.
While 45 minutes of running on a treadmill (@70% VO2max) is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, the results of this exercise intervention were pretty impressive. Pre and post testing indicated that subjects in the non-exercise and excess calories group experienced a significant decline in diabetic risk measures such as the oral glucose test, while the subjects who exercised were able to prevent this.
The researchers also took several advanced measures of genes within fat tissue, which together provided insight into regulation of fat metabolism. 7 of the 17 genes measured showed unfavourable changes in the non-exercise group, while they remained normal in the exercise group.
The results of this study are surprising, both from the point-of-view of the power of exercise and the power of over-eating and inactivity. 45 minutes of vigorous running is still a reasonably chunk of time and could be too much for the average Joe wanting to enjoy their summer holiday (and splurging) and not have to do too much exercise. It would be interesting to see if similar results could be obtained when a shorter, more high-intensity exercise protocol was employed. It’s also worth mentioning that they average age of the subjects was 25 years – so it’s not possible to say whether individuals aged 40-50 would experience the same results.
Hussey SE, et al. Exercise training increases adipose tissue GLUT4 expression in patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism. 2011; 13:959–962.