There are plenty of good reasons to work out, but it turns out that extra gym sessions might not prevent the dreaded holiday weight gain. In a recent study that took place between Thanksgiving and New Year's, 148 people gained an average of one and a half pounds and increased their body fat, even though half of them exercised for five hours per week (that's double the amount recommended by the American Heart Association)Effects of exercise during the holiday season on changes in body weight, body composition and blood pressure. Stevenson, JL, Krishnan, S., et al. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2013 Sep;67(9):944-9..
With the average Thanksgiving meal clocking in at between 3,000 and 4,500 calories, people probably eat more during the holidays than their regular workouts can compensate for. The average three-mile run burns about 300 calories, which doesn't even make up for one glass of eggnogEnergy expenditure of walking and running: comparison with prediction equations. Hall C, Figueroa A, et al. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2004 Dec;36(12):2128-34.!
But while working out might not always reverse the effects of overeating, exercise is still the key to feeling happy, confident, and less stressed. Just remember that by maintaining our regular fitness routines and, just as importantly, paying attention to what's on our plates, a healthy holiday season is still on the table.
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