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February 14, 2020

Exercise could be key to curbing appetite during diet, Drexel study finds

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Physical activity has been shown to reduce appetite, according to a new study from researchers at Drexel University. Adding exercise to a dietary plan could improve the likelihood of success among those trying to lose weight.

Selecting an appropriate diet for a weight loss plan is just one part of a successful strategy that will help dieters reach their goals.

Adding in exercise alongside a diet not only helps one improve health and shed pounds, but it has the effect of stopping dieters from overeating, according to research out of Drexel University.

A new study published in Health Psychology makes the case that exercise serves as a buffer for any diet.

The research team sought to examine the general uncertainty as to whether physical activity increases or reduces appetite. Some feel that exercise gives dieters an "excuse" to eat more than they should, while others believe physical activity both accounts for possible excess calories and reduces appetite.

“Almost all behavioral weight loss programs prescribe exercise because of its health benefits and because it expends energy or ‘burns calories.’" said study author and Drexel graduate student Rebecca Crochiere, via Men's Journal. “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.”

The study found that 60 minutes of light exercise dropped the chance of overeating from 12% to 5% among those who participated. For every 10 minutes of additional exercise, participants had reduced diets for the rest of the day.

"Previous research had examined similar questions in the laboratory or by having individuals self-report their amounts of exercise, Crochiere wrote in an email to PhillyVoice.

"This study was unique in that it measured physical activity using objective fitness trackers that captured exercise occurring in individual's everyday lives, which likely makes the results more representative of what happens in real-life situations," Crochiere said. 

While the study acknowledges that responses may differ from one person to another, physical activity can likely serve as an effective boost to the results of a diet.

"In this study, we did not investigate why physical activity seems to protect against overeating," Crochiere wrote. "However, some other evidence suggests that following exercise, hormones are released that reduce hunger and food intake. Another potential explanation is that exercise boosts mood or self-esteem, which then improves motivation to eat well or within one's diet."

Future research could examine whether the effect of exercise on eating behavior differs from person to person, Crochiere said. Plus, more research is needed to determine whether the exercise intensity affects eating behaviors. 

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