Exercise Can Help You Stick to Your Diet, Study Finds

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Dieting continues to be one of the hardest New Year’s resolutions to maintain, and every year it claims its share of victims. Even if you commit to a diet, there are infinitesimal ways to softly cheat—sugar-free diets come with their own zero-sugar sodas, intermittent fasters can nosh on sweets all afternoon, and even vegans can have their (vegan) cake and eat it, too. Lucky for those ardent dieters out there, a new study from Drexel University suggests that exercise is a sort of dietary insulation, a protective factor that regulates hunger and reduces appetite.

The study, published in Health Psychology, attempted to monitor participants’ training habits and thusly predict their lapses from weight-loss programs. Exercise, the study found, helps protect against overeating: After 60 minutes of exercise, the dangers of overeating after your workout dropped from 12 percent to 5 percent. And for every 10 minutes of subsequent exercise, participants had reduced appetites for the rest of the day.

The author of the study, graduate student Rebecca Crochiere, said, “Almost all behavioral weight loss programs prescribe exercise because of its health benefits and because it expends energy or ‘burns calories.’ ” The study’s argument, she says, is that dieting and exercise are not mutually exclusive. “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.”

Light physical activity—as opposed to something like HIIT workouts—has proven to be the strongest defense against overeating. But Crochiere says more research is needed to support this claim. More research, too, is needed to investigate how the combination of exercise and dieting differs from person to person.


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