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Video: Exercise Makes Us Want Healthy Food
Exercise makes us want healthy food
Regular exercise is associated with improved eating habits. After several weeks of exercise, study participants who were previously sedentary were more likely to choose "healthy" foods (lean meats, fruits and vegetables), while cravings for fried foods, soda, and other unhealthy dietary options were reduced.
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Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that regular exercise is associated with improved eating habits.
The new study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, involved 2,680 students from the University of Houston and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. They did not exercise regularly (less than 30 minutes a week) and did not diet.
As part of the experiment, they did aerobics three times a week for 30 minutes for 15 weeks, and were also instructed not to change their diet in any significant way.
The researchers found that after several weeks of exercise, study participants who were previously sedentary were more likely to choose “healthy” foods (lean meats, fruits and vegetables), while their preferences for fried foods, soda, and other unhealthy dietary options decreased.
So, despite being instructed not to make significant changes to your diet, it still happened. Although this study did not examine the mechanism of action of these changes, according to a number of previous studies, moderate exercise can reduce the preference for foods high in animal fat by altering dopamine levels. Several studies have also shown a relationship between exercise intensity and the amount of appetite-regulating hormones in the body.
“The process of becoming physically active can influence dietary behavior. One of the reasons we need to promote exercise is because of healthy habits that can be formed in other areas. This combination is very powerful,”said Molly Bray, chair of the department of nutrition at the university and professor of pediatrics at Dell Medical School.
Changes in dietary preferences with regular exercise are likely to be similar at different ages. The study looked at people between the ages of 18 and 35, a period of youth that is critical to developing healthy habits. Previous studies have found that significant weight gain occurs during college years, and that being slightly to moderately overweight between 20 and 22 increases the risk of obesity in old age.
“Many people in the study were unaware that this active, healthy person was inside them. Some of them thought their size was the same. Many of these young people choose what they eat and when they should play sports for the first time in their lives,”said Molly Bray.