Exercising makes you crave healthier food Photo: AP

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 claim the results show that exercise is a ‘win-win’ – getting Britons fit while helping them curb the desire to overeat.

A team from Leeds University found activities like going for a run act as a ‘buffer’ against unhealthy appetites, with those who regularly worked out 15 per cent 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.’

He added: ‘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 that did the least exercise found high-fat food the most rewarding while those that 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 will present their findings at the European Congress on Obesity in Portugal today, tracked 180 participants aged 18 to 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 per cent 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.

Dr 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 unknowingly given either a high-energy porridge or a low-calorie version. Those who exercised subconsciously ate less at their next meal if they had eaten the high calorie cereal. The more sedentary group ate the same in both circumstances.

Dr Finlayson said: ‘Spending 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. They don’t have another outlet for their need for reward.’ A report published by NHS Digital in March revealed a quarter of adults in England are inactive and take fewer than 30 minutes of exercise every week.

At the same time, 58 per cent of women and 68 per of men are overweight or obese. Steven Ward, of the UK Active group, said: ‘We know physical activity is key to weight management by burning calories, but it’s a win-win that reaching for your gym shoes means you’re less likely to reach for the snack cupboard.’


A BALLOON swallowed and then inflated with water in the stomach can help seriously obese patients lose weight in just four months.

The Elipse device, which makes people feel full, could become an alternative to expensive gastric bypasses, experts say.

It is the first gastric balloon that can be inserted and removed without anaesthetic or surgery. A study of 42 patients, presented yesterday at the European Congress on Obesity in Portugal, showed severely obese patients lost an average of 2st 5lb (15kg) using the Elipse balloon. After four months the device naturally bursts and passes out through the body.

More than 6,400 people in England undergo weight-loss surgery every year – usually gastric bands or gastric bypasses – at a cost of up to £8,000. The Elipse only costs between £2,200 and £3,400.

Study leader Dr Roberta Ienca, from Sapienza University of Rome, said: ‘We observed improvements in overall metabolic health including blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar control.’


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