Following a dietary weight loss program can be difficult. Many factors trigger diet lapses, which can lead to weight loss failure. Experts disagree on whether physical activity increases risk or protects against diet lapses. While some studies show exercise leads to overeating by increasing appetite and/or a person's justification for eating, other studies show exercise regulates hunger and may help reduce overeating.
Researchers from the Center for Weight, Eating and Lifestyle Science (WELL Center) in the College of Arts and Sciences at Drexel University found exercise to be a protective factor in a study where participants in a weight loss program, who were following a reduced-calorie diet, engaged in exercise in their real-world environments.
Almost all behavioral weight loss programs prescribe exercise because of its health benefits and because it expends energy or 'burns calories. Interestingly, our study suggests that exercise may also aid in adhering to a reduced-calorie diet, perhaps through improved regulation of appetite or eating behavior. It adds another reason to engage in exercise if one is seeking weight loss." Rebecca Crochiere, graduate student in the College of Arts and Sciences and lead author of the study
The study found that exercise was protective against overeating. When participants did not engage in exercise, the risk of overeating in the following hours was 12 percent. Whereas when participants engaged in 60 minutes of exercise, the risk of overeating was cut by more than half, to five percent.
For every additional 10 minutes of exercise a participant engaged in, the likelihood of overeating decreased by one percent in the few hours following exercise.
Researchers collected data from 130 participants using novel methods, like ecological momentary assessments, or brief surveys, that were delivered to participants' smartphones multiple times a day to measure overeating and hip-worn fitness trackers to measure exercise. Related Stories
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