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Perception of Exercise as Fun Helps to Control Diet

Perception of Exercise as Fun Helps to Control Diet

For some, the caloric benefit of a good workout is often negated by increased consumption of calories afterward. That bowl of ice cream or chips and dip becomes a reward for the treadmill grind.

New research suggests a remedy: the way you perceive the workout makes a big difference in how you feel and act later on.

Cornell scientists learned that if you think of an exercise workout as a “fun run” or as a well-deserved break, you’ll eat less afterward.

Cornell Food and Brand Lab researchers used two studies to come to their conclusions. Adults were led on a two kilometer walk around a small lake and were either told it was going to be an exercise walk or a scenic walk.

In the first study, 56 adults completed their walk and were then given lunch. Those who believed they had been on an exercise walk served and ate 35 percent more chocolate pudding for dessert than those who believed they had been on a scenic walk.

In the second study, 46 adults were given mid-afternoon snacks after their walk. Those thinking they had taken an exercise walk ate 206 more calories of M&Ms, which was over twice as much — 124 percent more — than those who had been told they were on a scenic walk.

“Viewing their walk as exercise led them to be less happy and more fatigued,” said lead author Carolina Werle, Ph.D., of the Grenoble School of Management in France.

Together, these studies point to one reason why people in exercise programs often find themselves gaining weight. According to Werle, the notion is that some exercisers have a tendency to reward themselves by overeating after their workout.

For beginning or veteran exercisers, the bottom line is this: “Do whatever you can to make your workout fun. Play music, watch a video, or simply be grateful that you’re working out instead of working in the office,” said co-author Brian Wansink, Ph.D., director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.

“Anything that brings a smile is likely to get you to eat less,” he added.

The article, published this month in Marketing Letters, was also co-authored Dr. Collin Payne of New Mexico State University.

Source: Cornell University

Happy woman jogging on a scenic trail photo by shutterstock.

Perception of Exercise as Fun Helps to Control Diet

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Perception of Exercise as Fun Helps to Control Diet. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 10 Jul 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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