A Sweet Reason to Sweat During the Holiday Season
See how cardio and resistance training can help counteract the negative effects of too much sugar
Maintaining an active lifestyle during the holidays is key to helping offset the extra calories you consume. But weight gain isn't the only negative effect of a few too many holiday cookies and peppermint mochas. In excess, sugar can cause everything from diabetes to heart disease-and in the short term it can zap your energy and make you crave more sugar. (Check out why WHO Says to Cut Sugar to 5 Percent of Daily Calories!)
With that in mind, here's some sweet news: A new study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that the detrimental effects of extra fructose (like increased inflammation) were significantly less when participants exercised more. "Physical activity has a host of physiological benefits, such as increasing insulin sensitivity," says study author Jessica Garay Redmond, RD, CSCS. That means your body uses less insulin to absorb sugar, keeping your blood sugar levels in check. Your heart will be happier, you'll have more energy, and you won't feel as hungry.
Even though this particular study looked at fructose (found naturally in fruits and part of the high fructose corn syrup that is added to many foods), Redmond says exercise would likely have the same effect on glucose and sucrose as well (table sugar, FYI, is made up of glucose and fructose).
In the study, the high physical activity component required participants to log 12,500 steps per day, whereas the low physical activity component was just 4,500 steps per day. "Just walking more can cause measurable changes in your body," says Redmond. (Inspired? Find out how to Walk Off Belly Flab.) But the more you sweat, the better: "Very high levels of physical activity can be even more effective," she says. Even better, incorporate a variety of activity into your day. "Varying the type of physical activity you do is important, since there are different benefits associated with aerobic exercise versus strength training versus flexibility and yoga exercises." (Stuck in a rut? You need to read 7 Surprising Reasons You're Setting Yourself Up for Workout Burnout).
While this research is promising, it's not a free pass to enjoy a stack of Oreos every time you hit the treadmill. Exercise alone doesn't negate eating too much sugar. "Extra calories from sugary sources will be detrimental to your health no matter what," says Redmond. "But if you're in the midst of a high-sugar diet, high levels of physical activity becomes even more important."