Be Fit For Life

with Ellen Cohen-Kaplan

Party time…but keep exercising!

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I had a little tea party
This afternoon at three.
‘Twas very small-
Three guest in all-
Just I, myself and me.

Myself ate all the sandwiches,
While I drank up the tea;
‘Twas also I who ate the pie
And passed the cake to me. – by Jessica Nelson North

Although most of us usually have a party with more than just one, we still may overindulge during the holiday season.

Some of my clients are complaining about gaining weight because they’re attending more events where food and alcohol play a central role. I’ve spoken to many people who have gained a few pounds and lamented that they didn’t eat or drink that much more than usual. Unfortunately, their metabolism did not agree; weight gain is likely during holidays and even winter months, unless a thoughtful plan is in place.

A new study out of the University of Michigan examined the effects of continued exercise during a week of overeating. Although this was a pilot study with only 4 people, the results are promising. These four lean, active individuals ate 30% more than their usual intake over a period of a week, but continued their regular exercise regimen, which consisted of a total sum of at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise and at least six days of exercise in the week. The research team measured glucose tolerance and abdominal fat samples before and after the week of overeating. Previous studies have shown that one week of overeating can impair glycemic control and insulin sensitivity, along with other health markers that measure inflammation in subjects who were not exercising. This study showed that in the exercising subjects,  “overeating did not increase the protein content of markers of adipose tissue inflammation or circulating C-reactive protein.” Translated, that means that exercise likely plays a protective role in avoiding fat build-up and inflammation as long as the overeating is limited to short periods of time. To read the full article, go to

One caveat is that the exercise must be of moderate intensity, and be done at least 6 times per week. The total time should be no less than 150 minutes, so 2.5 hours is your sweet spot. You can do any type of aerobic exercise, as long as it totals at least 150 minutes. You may walk at a rapid pace, or include fast intervals in your walking for 25-30 minutes at a time, spread out over 6 days. You may prefer using the elliptical, treadmill, bicycle or rowing machine for that amount of time. Swimming counts, as long as you are bringing yourself to close to your target heart rate range. A rough formula for target heart is 220 minus your age, multiplied by .75 to .85, depending on your fitness level. For example, if you’re 60 years old, your target range is between 120-136 beats per minute.

Exercising more consistently in this season may prove a challenge if you don’t like the cold. I’ve learned that it’s all about having the right gear. My go-to clothing for walking outside is a good thermal layer like a nylon underarmour or hot chili shirt and tights, fleece-lined or heavy nylon workout pants, a fleece or down vest or middle layer,  a down jacket with a hood or hat that covers your ears, and don’t forget some well insulated gloves or mittens. Once you’re warm, you can enjoy the quiet of walks in the winter, while keeping inflammation from overeating at bay.

I believe a major part of enjoyment in life is living through our senses- that includes smell, touch, sight and hearing, and last but definitely not least, sense of taste! I never advise people to forego the fun and enjoyment of eating special holiday foods and treats, but I encourage moderation. If you continue your exercise regimen, or better yet, bump it up a notch, you may find that short term overeating in moderation (if that’s not an oxymoron) does not have to adversely affect health and ideally weight. Give it a try and savor the joys of the season while staying fit and healthy!



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