Exercise Messages Promote Food Intake

Notwithstanding the widely held notion that exercise is the best and most effective measure to prevent obesity and lose those extra pounds, it is in fact, despite its manifold other health benefits, neither of the above. (Readers should pick up the latest issue of TIME Magazine (Why exercise won’t make you thin) if they doubt my words).

In fact, it now turns out, that telling people to exercise may in fact simply make them eat more (without exercising of course).

This is the gist of an article published in this month’s issue of OBESITY by Dolores Albarracin and colleagues from the University of Illinois.

In two controlled experiments, college students exposed to either print messages typical of exercise campaigns or subliminal presentation of action words associated with exercise (e.g., “active”), immediately increased their food intake compared to subjects provided with “neutral” messages.

The authors suggest that these inadvertent effects may in part explain the limited efficacy of exercise-promotion programs for weight loss.

If even subtle messaging on the topic of increasing activity will make you eat more, I wonder about the effect of watching sports (whether at the sports arena or in front of your TV) on ingestive behaviour.

What if simply watching others engage in exercise or sports also turns out to promote overeating?

Imagine if ignoring all activity messaging and switching TV channels to avoid any coverage of sporting events was the solution to the obesity epidemic – obesity would definitely be here to stay.

Certainly a controversial topic if I ever saw one…

Edmonton, Alberta