How do you stick to a New Year’s diet plan? Stay active! People who exercise three times a week WANT to eat more healthy food, study finds
- Researchers at the University of Texas of studied 2,680 young adults who rarely work out
- They got some of them to switch to a more active routine
- The ones who exercised three times a week were more likely to opt for lean meats, fruits and vegetables after a few weeks
A daily walk or bike ride makes people want to eat fruit and vegetables instead of burgers and chips, according to new research.
Physical activity is the key to sticking to diet-focused New Year resolutions, say scientists.
Known as the ‘transfer effect’, the phenomenon is where a single improvement in lifestyle triggers another.
The study of 2,680 formerly sedentary young adults found they were more likely to opt for lean meats, fruits and vegetables – after a few weeks of exercise.
What’s more they went off fried foods, soda and other fat and sugar laden goodies.
People often eat more healthily not long after beginning a new gym regime – even if diet changes weren’t originally part of the plan
Corresponding author Professor Molly Bray, a nutritionist and pediatrician at the University of Texas at Austin, said: ‘The process of becoming physically active can influence dietary behavior.
‘One of the reasons that we need to promote exercise is for the healthy habits it can create in other areas. That combination is very powerful.’
The participants, who were not exercising regularly or dieting, were US undergraduates aged 18 to 35 – a period of young adulthood critical for forming healthy habits.
Previous studies have found considerable weight gain occurs during the college years. Being mildly to moderately overweight at 20 to 22 increases the risk of obesity later in life.
But what drives food preference changes when people exercise would probably be consistent across a wide span of ages.
Dr Bray said: ‘Many people in the study didn’t know they had this active, healthy person inside them.
‘Some of them thought their size was inevitable. For many of these young people, they are choosing what to eat and when to exercise for the first time in their lives.’
They were instructed not to change their diets in any significant way, but it happened anyway.
Those who said they exercised less than 30 minutes a week started 30-minute workouts three times a week for 15 weeks.
The sessions consisted of aerobic exercise at 65-85 percent of the person’s age and gender specific maximum heart rate, along with a five-minute warm-up and cool down.
They wore heart-rate monitors and could use stationary bikes, treadmills or elliptical machines that mimic going up stairs.
The study published in the International Journal of Obesity did not examine the mechanism at work.
But previous research has found moderate exercise can reduce a preference for high-fat foods in animals by altering levels of dopamine.
The brain is hardwired to seek out behaviors that release the ‘feel-good’ chemical in the reward system.
Several studies also have shown a relationship between the intensity of exercise and the amount of appetite-regulating hormones in the body.
In 2015 a US study that tracked the eating and exercise habits of 6,000 people from 18 to 31 also found regular exercise causes an appetite for fruit and veg.
The Indiana University team said it is why you might see someone eating more healthily not long after beginning a new gym regime – even if diet changes weren’t originally part of the plan.