Making better dietary choices may be a side effect of working out, according to a new UT study published in the International Journal of Obesity.
In the study, 2,680 sedentary young adults underwent 15 weeks of aerobic exercise training for a prescribed intensity and time duration. They were told not to change their diet, but the data showed participants began eating healthier as they became physically active, said Molly Bray, department chair of nutritional sciences and corresponding author of the study published in January.
Bray said the energy expenditure of the exercise training was not enough to elicit weight loss, yet researchers saw significant weight changes anyway.
“The only way to change your weight in that way is to change your diet,” Bray said. “The general trend was that if you were compliant with the exercise protocol, you had positive changes.”
Bray said many people who want to lose weight often diet, but dieting can feel like you are depriving yourself of something. Instead, Bray said people should incorporate physical activity into their lives to see positive changes in eating habits.
“If you become physically active, then rather than taking something away from yourself, you’re bringing a new part into your life, and the effects of that can be a tendency toward eating better,” Bray said.
Biology sophomore Eric Wang said he finds it easier to eat healthier while maintaining a workout routine.
“You don’t want to waste a workout that day, so you end up choosing healthier choices,” Wang said. “I also physically feel better when I’m eating healthy.”
Bray said people who have not worked out should give themselves a chance to incorporate physical activity into their lives.
“If you go on a run and you hate it, then go try something else,” Bray said. “There are a million things you can do, so pick the thing that is fun and effective for you.”
Ways to start exercising could include investing in workout classes or going to the gym with a friend for support, Bray said.
This is the case for Shelby Holland, communications sciences and disorders junior, who attends TeXercise classes with her friends.
“It’s only 45 minutes out of my day, and everytime I go, I feel so much happier afterwards because I did,” Holland said.