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Studies Suggest People Eat Healthier When The Workout Is Fun

July 10, 2014
Image Credit: Maridav/Thinkstock.com

[ Watch the Video: Fun Or Exercise? ]

Alan McStravick for redOrbit.com – Your Universe online

When it comes to an effective diet and exercise routine, it really is mind over matter. A pair of studies performed by US and French institutions explains that if you can convince yourself that your exercise is a fun activity rather than a grueling task, you are more likely to maintain a healthier diet.

The first of the two studies, conducted by researchers from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University (CU) in New York, the University of New Mexico (UNM) and the Grenoble Ecole de Management (GEM) in France, was comprised of 56 adult participants who were made to complete a 2 km (1.2 mile) circuit around a small lake. Some of the participants were told ahead of time the walk was for exercise. The others were informed that the walk was meant to be scenic. It turns out how the task was perceived had interesting effects afterwards.

After the walk, each of the 56 participants were given lunch. Those among the group that perceived the earlier walk as exercise consumed 35 percent more chocolate pudding for dessert than those who were made to believe they were engaged in a more fun and leisurely activity.

For the second study, the research team gave 46 adult participants a mid-afternoon snack of the popular M&Ms candy after the walk. The difference between the group thinking the walk was scenic and the group thinking the walk was exercise was even more stark than the first study. The exercise group consumed 206 more calories than the scenic group. That equates to a consumption of 124 percent more M&Ms than those who didn’t view the afternoon’s task as exercise.

“Viewing the walk as exercise led them to be less happy and more fatigued,” explained the lead author of the study, Carolina Werle, professor at GEM.

People who find they have to force themselves to exercise though they dread it often get frustrated when they later realize they aren’t losing much weight, or worse, have even gained weight. Werle attributes this to the notion that some who exercise will have a tendency to reward themselves by overeating after their workout.

The results of the two studies are being published this month in an article in the journal Marketing Letters. Along with Werle, the article was co-authored by Dr. Brian Wansink of CU and Dr. Collin Payne of New Mexico State University.

Based on their results, Wansink offered advice to both beginning and veteran exercisers.

“Do whatever you can to make your workout fun,” he explained. “Play music, watch a video or simply be grateful that your [sic] working out instead of working in the office.” Apparently tricking your mind is all that is needed to make your diet and exercise routine pay off. “Anything that brings a smile is likely to get you to eat less,” Wansink concluded.

Image 2 (below): © Werle, Wansink and Payne (Marketing Letters 2014)

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Source: Alan McStravick for redOrbit.com - Your Universe online

Studies Suggest People Eat Healthier When The Workout Is Fun


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