The way we frame exercise in our minds may influence what (and how much) we eat afterwards. New research has found that by thinking about physical activity as fun rather than a workout, you’re less likely to indulge in desserts and snacks to reward yourself.
The finding comes from food psychologist Dr Brian Wansink from Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab and Dr Carolina Werle, an associate professor of marketing at the Grenoble School of Management in France. Their unconventional study took participants on a 2 km walk around a lake, with half told it was going to be an ‘exercise walk’ where they should keep track of their exertion levels, and the other half told it was a ‘scenic walk’ and they should take in the sights and have fun.
Afterwards, those who were in the exercise mindset ate more dessert and snacks than those who believed they were simply completing a fun activity. These results match what social psychologists call ‘self-licensing’, our tendency to allow ourselves to indulge after doing something good for us first.
The lesson? “Do whatever you can to make your workout fun,” said Dr Wansink. “Play music, watch a video, or simply be grateful that you are working out instead of working in the office.”