As the season of overindulgence is upon us, binging and overeating becomes an almost daily occurrence. From cookies and treats at the office to endless dinners and potlucks, for the next month we will all likely be filling our bellies beyond their normal capacity.

People who for 11 months of the year may eat well and control their portions with wills of steel reach for baked goods and second helpings. While it may seem harmless to overeat for the holidays, since it is just for a month, our waistlines can feel and show what a difference a month makes.

Beyond the extra five or 10 pounds, we may also be seriously damaging our health. Even though seasonal overeating may be for just a short period of time, it is enough to have a negative impact on our bodies and health.

Occasional overeating can cause an increase in adipose tissue (also known as fat) and metabolic abnormalities. Researchers have found that as little as one week of overeating is enough to do this and to impair blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity, which both increase the risk of prediabetes.

While overeating – even if it’s just time to time – can do irreparable damage to your health, there may be hope. There is evidence that suggests exercise can help to mitigate the damage of these bursts of indulgence.

A recent study that was presented at the American Physiological Society’s Integrative Biology of Exercise VII meeting in Phoenix, AZ explored the possible protective effects of aerobic exercise for occasional bingers.

The pilot study out of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor subjected four lean and active adults to a week-long binge fest. The participants ate 30 per cent more calories than their daily requirement while continuing to exercise as they usually would. For at least six days in the week, they did two and a half hours of aerobic exercise.

The researchers, led by study author Alison C. Ludzki, measured oral glucose tolerance and looks at samples of the subjects’ fatty tissue before and after the week of overeating.

They found that the exercise helped to protect from the damage typically caused by overeating with glucose tolerance remaining stable.

The researchers also looked for signs of inflammation in the fatty tissue such as pJNK/JNK, pERK/ERK, and circulating C-reactive protein.

For people who overeat and do not exercise, there would normally be an increase in inflammation. In the University of Michigan study, it would appear that exercise also protected against this health concern.

The participants in the study had none of the markers of inflammation and no signs of a change in the chemical composition of fat.

While the research is still in the early stages, the results of the pilot study offer an interesting direction for future studies to focus on. Although simply not overeating may be the best option, during the holiday season – especially when it is cold and dark – this is far from easy to accomplish. So when you schedule your holiday dinners and cookie exchange parties, don’t forget to also make some time for the gym.