Thinking about ramping up your exercise routine? Gretchen Reynolds, a writer for the New York Times says it may be wise to think of your workouts not as exercise, but as playtime. A new study suggests that people’s attitudes toward physical activity can influence what they eat afterward, and in the long run, whether they lose weight. Here is a portion of her article…..
For some time, scientists have been puzzled – and exercisers frustrated – by the general ineffectiveness of exercise as a weight-loss strategy. According to multiple studies and anecdotes, most people who start exercising do not lose as much weight as would be expected, given their increased energy expenditure. Some people add pounds despite burning hundreds of calories during workouts.
Past studies of this phenomenon have found that exercise can increase the body’s production of appetite hormones, making some people feel ravenous after even a light workout and prone to consume more calories than they expended. But that finding, while intriguing, doesn’t fully explain the wide variability in people’s post-exercise eating habits.
So, for the new study, published in the journal Marketing Letters, French and American researchers turned to psychology and the possible effect that calling exercise by any other name might have on people’s subsequent diets.
Half of the women in the study were told that their walk was meant to be exercise, and they were encouraged to view it as such, monitoring their exertion throughout. The other women were told that their 30-minute outing would be a walk purely for pleasure; they would be listening to music through headphones and rating the sound quality, but mostly the researchers wanted them to enjoy themselves.
Those women who’d been formally exercising reported feeling more fatigued and grumpy than the other women, although the two groups’ estimates of mileage and calories burned were almost identical. More telling, when the women sat down to a pasta lunch, with water or sugary soda to drink, and applesauce or chocolate pudding for dessert, the women in the exercise group loaded up on the soda and pudding, consuming significantly more calories from these sweets than the women who’d thought they were walking for pleasure.
Carolina O.C. Werle, an associate professor of marketing at the Grenoble School of Management in France, who led the study said the same exertion spun as “fun” instead of “exercise” prompts less gorging on high-calorie foods.
Dr. Werle said this new data shows that most of us require recompense of some kind for working out. That reward can take the form of subjective enjoyment. If exercise is fun, no additional gratification is needed. If not, there’s chocolate pudding.
The good news is that our attitudes toward exercise are malleable. “We can frame our workouts in different ways,” Dr. Werle said, “by focusing on whatever we consider fun about it, such as listening to our favorite music or chatting with a friend” during a group walk.
“The more fun we have,” she concluded, “the less we’ll feel the need to compensate for the effort” with food. nytimeshealth.com 6/4/14