Q: Can I Burn Off Those Extra Holiday Calories With Exercise?
Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, FAND of the American Institute for Cancer Research answers this common question.
A: It depends on the treats you choose and how fast you walk. Holiday cookies often have 60 to 140 calories each, and sweet desserts may contain from 200 to 600 calories or more per serving.
If you walk at a moderate three-miles-per-hour pace and weigh 150 pounds, you would need about 24 minutes to burn the calories in one 140-calorie cookie, and well over an hour for other sweet desserts. If you can comfortably walk at a brisk pace of about 4 miles per hour, you could cut your walking time to 15 minutes to burn the same number of calories; or if you walk briskly for 24 minutes, you’ll burn almost 200 calories.
Looking at this math, it’s easy to see that although boosting physical activity at a time when there’s more high-calorie food around can help avoid weight gain, adding extra exercise can’t easily keep up with how quickly excess calories accumulate with overeating. However, don’t look at walking and other exercise simply as a way to balance calories you consume. Physical activity, independent of weight, is linked with numerous health benefits, including lower risk of several cancers. It also helps your body regulate blood sugar and keeps several hormones at healthy levels.
For many people, daily physical activity also helps handle stress, raise energy levels and improve sleep quality, which are all often challenges at busy times of year. So enjoy sweet treats of the season, choosing those that you enjoy most at times when you can truly taste and savor them.
Source: The American Institute for Cancer Research. The AICR fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature, and educates the public about the results. Visit the AICR website (www.aicr.org) to find delicious, healthful recipes and information.