Take charge of your health: Dr. Ann Kulze says exercise for pleasure to eat less

Take charge of your health: Dr. Ann Kulze says exercise for pleasure to eat less
Part of the psychology of exercise seems to be that people who make it an enjoyable activity eat less after exercising, experiments conducted by Cornell's Food and Brand Lab suggest. (Getty Images)

Hitting the gym for better weight control? Try thinking about it as “fun and pleasurable” and not “exercise” for best results.

Exercising with friends and getting outdoors help turn the experience into a pleasure, not a chore. (Getty Images)

In an intriguing series of two separate experiments, researchers from Cornell’s famed Food and Brand Lab found that we eat significantly more after physical activity perceived as “exercise” versus the same activity perceived as “a pleasurable pastime.”

In the first experiment, 56 adults were led on a 2-kilometer walk around a lake and told the activity was either for exercise or to enjoy the natural scenery. Afterward, they were served lunch. The walkers who believed they were moving for exercise ate 35% more chocolate pudding for dessert versus those who believed they were on a scenic stroll.

In the second experiment, 46 adults were offered a mid-afternoon snack of M&M’s after the same 2-kilometer walk. Those thinking they walked for exercise ate 206 additional calories of M&M’s – 124% more than the group that walked for scenic beauty. These results likely explain why people who take up exercise for weight loss often fail, and the results drive home the importance of moving for the pleasure and vitality it can give, rather than for burning calories.

Do whatever it takes to build fun and enjoyment into your exercise. I consider my daily morning exercise the highlight of my day and a never-failing source of joy, escape and pleasure, which is why I never miss doing it.

Dr. Ann Kulze is founder and CEO of Just Wellness and has a knack for breaking down the science of healthy eating and living into simple and easily digestible messages. She has been featured on “Dr. Oz,” “Oprah and Friends,” WebMD and U.S. News & World Report. Alabama NewsCenter is publishing advice from Dr. Ann.

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