EXERCISING makes us crave healthier food rather than seeking a high-calorie reward, research shows.

Experts say activity already provides us with a kick, so there’s no need to look for a boost elsewhere.

Researchers from the UK claim the results show that exercise is a “win-win” - getting those who exercise fit while helping them curb the desire to overeat.

A team from Leeds University found activities like running as a “buffer” against unhealthy appetites, with those who regularly worked out 15% less likely to want junk food. However, couch potatoes were more likely to reward themselves with high-calorie meals.

Study leader Dr Graham Finlayson said: “Getting a high from exercise means people aren’t looking to get a reward elsewhere.

“What we found is that there is a clear relationship between the amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity - raising your heart rate and building up a sweat - and the desire to eat high-fat food.

“People who did the least exercise found high-fat food the most rewarding while those who did the most found it less appealing. Being active gives you a ‘double whammy’ of health benefits. Our study shows it’s a win-win.”

The research team, who presented their findings at the European Congress on Obesity last week, tracked 180 participants aged between 18 and 70 for a week. Each was given an armband which monitored their physical activity.

The scientists found that those who did the most exercise - moving for more than three hours a day - were 15% less likely to want fatty foods. Instead, they had a “bias” towards low-fat foods. Those who moved around for less than 80 minutes a day were significantly more interested in high-fat foods.

Finlayson said: “Engaging in lots of physical activity may act as a ‘buffer’ against preference for high-fat foods.

“We can speculate that people who already get their daily reward and enjoyment from exercise are less likely to succumb to the temptation of fatty food.”

In a second study, 34 participants were given either a high-energy or a low-calorie porridge.

Those who exercised subconsciously ate less at their next meal if they had eaten the high-calorie cereal.

The sedentary group, in contrast, ate the same in both circumstances.

Finlayson said: “Loads of time on the sofa seems to dis-regulate control over appetite. This makes people more vulnerable to the cravings for high-fat food. But people who are inactive are more vulnerable to the temptations of high-fat foods.”

A report published in the UK in March revealed that a quarter of adults in England are inactive and take fewer than 30 minutes of exercise every week.

At the same time, 58% of women and 68% of men are overweight or obese. Steven Ward, of the UK Active group, said: “It’s a win-win that reaching for your gym shoes means you’re less likely to reach for the snack cupboard.” - Daily Mail