Even if you have the best of intentions, chances are you’re going to eat more than usual this holiday season. – By Selene Yeager
It’s December, and Christmas is near and while there’s more time to ride there’s also more time to eat unnecessarily. The comfort of friends, family, and trifle can often lead to bad eating habits. Little wonder the average person downs between 3 000 and 4 500 calories on Christmas Day…. and let’s not even talk about the leftovers that follow.
Aside from the obvious potential weight gain, multiple days of overeating has been shown to wreak havoc on your body’s blood sugar and fat metabolism, and lead to unhealthy inflammation.
Bike-riding to the rescue! If you want extra motivation or a really good excuse to push away from those family feasts for an hour or two and get out and ride this food-fueled month, researchers from the University of Michigan have one for you.
In a study presented at the seventh annual Integrative Biology of Exercise meeting, the scientists found that when people continued exercising at least 150 minutes a week, at least six days a week, they saw no change in glucose tolerance, fat metabolism, or markers of inflammation even when they ate 30 per cent more calories than normal for a full week.
As a bonus, regular exercise like cycling also helps curb stress and may help you resist overindulgence in the first place.
Need extra motivation to bike for health? There is no shortage of online exercise challenges you can sign up for. Notably, Strava will reward users with a badge if they rack up at least 1 250 kilometers in a month.
We’ve also come up with our three Festive Challenges you can play along with to fight the ill effects of holiday binging.
FESTIVE CHALLENGE Level 1 – beginner
The commitment: Ride 150 minutes a week for the next 3 weeks.
The rules: Even though you could easily crank this out in two or three rides, the study shows that consistency is key for metabolic benefits, so you need to pedal at least six days a week for it to count. (You can always go longer, of course.)
The reward: As the study indicates, this amount of aerobic exercise is all it takes to offset the increases in blood sugar, hindered fat metabolism, and inflammation that often follow a period of overeating, such as the holiday season.
Pro tip: If you don’t typically ride every day, consider setting up your indoor trainer and hopping on for 25 minutes in the morning before work to make it happen. You’ll get a nice metabolic boost to start your day to boot!
FESTIVE CHALLENGE Level 2 – intermediate
The commitment: Double down on Challenge 1 with this double-stuffed dare, and commit to riding 300 minutes a week for the next three weeks.
The rules: As with each of these challenges, this one requires that you saddle up six days a week, which works out to 50 minutes a day.
The reward: You’ll get the same metabolic protection found in the previous challenge, as well as protection against weight gain—and maybe a better chance of weight loss. Research shows that people are more likely to lose weight (and importantly, keep the weight off) if they exercise more than 250 and preferably 300 minutes a week.
Pro tip: We’ll allow a little flexibility on this one since the volume is higher and time can be tight. You can still ride 25 minutes a day some days, but you’ll need to go longer and make up the difference on days when you have more time.
FESTIVE CHALLENGE Level 3 – expert
The rules: As with the previous challenges, this one requires that you saddle up six days a week, which works out to 75 minutes a day.
The reward: You’ll not only get the metabolic and weight loss/weight management benefits of the previous challenges, but also are now building endurance and solid base fitness that’ll make long rides feel even easier. You’ll also become a better fat burner.
Pro tip: Find a friend. Exercise studies consistently show that you’re more likely to stick with a fitness resolution if you have social support and someone to play along. So get someone riding with you this month. You’ll both be happier, healthier, and have more fun.