So you might have overdone it last night. Whether you were celebrating spring break, Fat Tuesday or Thirsty Thursday, switching from beer to bourbon after midnight wasn’t the best idea in hindsight.
While trying to sleep off a hangover is tempting, what might make you feel better is a simple workout — and we have one you can do right in your living room. A large 10-year study of men and women 40 and over, published in August 2016 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that moderate-to-intense exercise may help negate some of the damage of alcohol consumption.
“One of the main aims of the study was to estimate whether physical activity can offset the health risks of alcohol,” says Emmanuel Stamatakis, PhD, the senior study author and a National Health and Medical Research Council Senior Research Fellow at Charles Perkins Centre and the School of Public Health at the University of Sydney in Australia. “We measured how people lived and died. Among those who exercised, such as brisk walking for 2.5 hours a week, it seemed that being active gave them some protection against premature death and a risk of dying from cancer.”
Make no mistake: Being a gym rat is not an excuse to chug bevvies with abandon. But it can help a bit whenever wine-o’clock strikes. While further research is needed to discover how exercise specifically plays a role in minimizing alcohol’s negative effects, Stamatakis has some speculations as to what may be occurring.
Alcohol not only compromises your health but also your ability to perform athletically. “When you drink, you get dehydrated, and that means your blood flow will not be as optimal,” says Noam Tamir, a certified trainer and founder and owner of TS Fitness in New York City. “Your body is not going to recover as fast and you will feel more lethargic.”
That’s not all. “Drinking does not promote quality sleep, which results in an increased heart rate and cortisol levels (stress hormones),” he adds. “Also, when you exercise, your body burns glycogen, but alcohol may block this process, so you’ll fatigue faster.”
That means now is not the time to take your favorite spin or HIIT class. Instead, consider an easy workout to help flush the alcohol out of your system. “If you’re hydrating and doing some light exercise, movement is medicine,” Tamir says. “It’s going to help you speed up recovery. Even walking is better for you than staying in bed and doing nothing. Activity boosts circulation, so it does help to detox you. Mobility exercises will get your heart rate up without being high impact.”
If you’re not feeling too woozy, consider performing this simple circuit from Tamir 2–3 times. Rest for 30 seconds between each move, and, at the end of each circuit, rest for a minute and hydrate as you go. Drink 12–16 ounces of water at least 30 minutes before your workout.
1. DEAD BUG
Improves coordination and core activation after a rough night. Also, gets your mind functioning (again).
Lie on the floor with a flat back and your arms reaching toward the ceiling. Raise your legs, bending your knees at 90 degrees. In one motion, as you inhale, extend your right arm and left leg until they’re parallel with the floor. Exhale as you bring them back to starting position. Hold and then repeat with your opposite arm and leg. Do 10 reps on each side.
2. SINGLE LEG BRIDGE
Activates the body’s biggest muscle, the glutes, which otherwise would serve as extra cushioning on the couch right now.
Lie on your back with both knees bent at 90 degrees, feet planted. Lift your left leg up, keeping that knee bent and dig your right heel into the floor as you raise your hips. Engage your glutes and hold at the top for a second. Then slowly lower down to starting position at a controlled pace. Do 15 reps on each side.
Gets that heart rate up and blood flowing to flush out last night’s damage.
Assume the position on your forearms and toes, keeping your elbows in line with your shoulders. Drive your elbows and toes toward your hips, contracting your whole body. This will work your core along with every other muscle in your body. Hold for 30 seconds.
4. BODY-WEIGHT SQUAT
Gets the blood flowing without being overly intense.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, feet slightly turned outward. Extend your arms as you drop your butt straight down into the squat, keeping an upright torso. Keep the spinal alignment with your neck, upper back, and lower back. Get your thighs parallel to the floor. Corkscrew your feet into the floor as you push to come back up to standing. Tuck your hips in a posterior position (visualize bringing your belt buckle to your chin). Inhale as you go down and exhale as you come up. Do 15 reps on each side.
5. SIDE PLANK
Stabilizes the body and helps you focus on core strength without too much intensity.
Lie on your side on the floor. Place your elbow directly under your shoulder and stack your feet, one on top of the other. You can also stagger your feet for balance. Lift your hips so that they’re at the same height as your supporting shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds on each side.
6. SPLIT SQUAT
Builds stability and strength, requiring a lot of core engagement.
In a split stance, bend both knees so that they’re at 90 degrees. Hold for a second, and then return to starting position. Be sure to drive off the front leg and fight the urge to lean forward. Stay upright, keeping the front knee stacked above the ankle and the back knee directly below the hip. Do 12 reps on each side.