What's in a name? Calories, apparently.
According to a recently published open access article in Marketing Letters, men and women who think a physical activity program is meant to be "fun" and not "exercise" tend to make healthier after-activity food choices.
Authors describe an experiment in which 56 healthy adult women were given maps of an outdoor 1-mile walking route and told that they would be served lunch after the walk. The women were then divided into 2 groups: one group was told that the walk was exercise and that they should be aware of their performance around the course; the other group was provided with headphones and music and asked to think about the sound quality of the music while enjoying themselves as they walked.
At the post-walk lunch, the women who were told they were exercising reported feeling more tired and irritable than the women who were walking for pleasure, and they tended to consume more sugary foods.
The general results were the same in a follow-up experiment in which 2 groups consisting of both women and men were instructed to walk a 1-mile route, with one group told they would be exercising, and the other told they would be sightseeing. When invited to help themselves to candy after the walk, the "exercise" group generally took more candy than the "sightseeing" group.
In a subsequent experiment, runners completing a marathon relay race were asked whether they had enjoyed their experience, and then were offered the choice of a chocolate bar or cereal bar as a snack. Researchers found that runners who said they didn't enjoy themselves tended to opt for the chocolate bar.
"Across 3 studies, in both lab and field settings, we found that framing a physical activity as fun (vs exercise) influenced participants' subsequent behavior," authors write, noting that the effects were consistent after controlling for BMI. The study was the focus of a recent blog post in the New York Times.
Research-related stories featured in News Now are intended to highlight a topic of interest only and do not constitute an endorsement by APTA. For synthesized research and evidence-based practice information, visit the association's PTNow website.
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