Does regular exercise help us improve our eating habits?

Eat better, manage stress, exercise, spend time outside, less time on screens- there are so many small changes we can make to help us feel better and look after our brains.

But what happens when we have lots of options and things we could do? Sometimes we feel even more overwhelmed and as a result, do nothing. So it’s key to think about a starting point, find something that suits you and most importantly, that you are going to enjoy.

Research published recently fond that the best starting point may be exercise- for more reasons that your think. What they discovered  was that those who started a regular  exercise programme also went on to make changes in their diet as a matter of choice rather than seeing at as ‘ a diet to follow’. 

So what do they actually do? 

Researchers looked at 2500 college students in the US who didn’t follow any particular diet ( like many of us!)  and did little exercise ( less than 30 minutes per week)

The volunteers followed a 15 week cardio exercise plan for 30-60 minutes, 3 times a week (a big increase from less than 30 minutes right!) They also had to complete questions about their diet before and after the 15 week study time . They were told NOT to change their eating habits, yes that’s right- eat what you always have. 

The results? 2000 students stuck with the exercise plan – which is great in itself. But the follow up diet questionnaires showed that many of the students started eating ‘better’ without being told to during the period of regular exercise. What do they mean by eating ‘better’? More fruit, more veg and more fish or lean meat, LESS fried food, snacks and fizzy drinks. 

Exercising for longer and / or at higher intensity showed a change in preference for foods by the participants. 

Why? There are no clear answers to this- there is the point that if your start to show signs of weight loss that you are more likely to do what you can to maintain this. However they also believe that exercise in this way can change brain function and alter the way our brain cells work together to stimulate the desire to eat more healthily. 

Another example of our amazing brains in action!

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41366-018-0299-3

 Dr Clara Russell