enjoy exercise

DAILY WISDOM: Find Joy in Exercise

You'll make better food choices.

Every athlete knows that education is a crucial part of performance. Sport and exercise research, insight from top trainers, science, and technology help you to better understand your body so you can craft a healthier lifestyle, workouts, and recovery plan.

In our daily news series, experts address some of the latest fitness research, nutrition, and health stories.

TODAY'S TOPIC: A CASE FOR MAKING FITNESS "FUN"

THE SCIENCE

According to a recent study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, athletes who had the option to choose the type and duration of a pre-breakfast workout felt happier and more fulfilled than their counterparts who were prescribed a set exercise routine. Moreover, the former group made healthier dietary choices at breakfast.

EXPERT INSIGHT

“Participants who exercised in conditions they picked reported higher levels of perceived choice, a crucial component of self-motivation,” explains study lead author Natalya Beer of the School of Human Sciences at the University of Western Australia. In other words, enjoying your workouts most likely means you’ll be enthusiastic to do them again. 

Further, those who didn’t get to choose their workouts seemed more inclined to take license with their diet choices, or as Beer describes, they had “the belief that an unhealthy behavior (such as unhealthy food intake) can be justified after engaging in a healthy behavior (e.g., exercise).” However, researchers can’t conclude that definitively, as asking participants why they chose the meal they chose would have tipped them off to the real aim of the experiment.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Stop exercising because you feel like you have to work off or earn a food reward and do it because you want to (because you know the mind-body benefits, for instance). “Research has shown us that dreading physical activity can lead to overeating post-workout and our study adds to this by highlighting that if you go to the gym on your own terms, you may be less likely to indulge in unhealthy food afterwards.” If your workout has become no longer a choice in your mind, it’s time to switch it up, whether that means trying a new class, sport, or just a different piece of cardio equipment.