Does Exercise Change the Way Your Brain Responds to Food?

Most people make an effort to change their eating habits once they begin working out. After all, nutrition is an essential part of building a better body. But does exercise make it easier to resist high-calorie temptations that threaten to sidetrack your efforts? Some researchers think so. They believe that exercise alters brain function in a way that reduces impulse eating.

Does Exercise Make It Easier to Eat Healthy?

According to a review of research studies published in Obesity Reviews, exercising regularly may alter portions of the brain that control impulsive behavior and the drive to overeat. That’s a good thing if you have problems controlling your desire to snack.

The brain not only has the job of stimulating certain behaviors, it has the task of inhibiting impulses as a way to maintain health and balance. The researchers that reviewed these studies believe exercise enhances the brain’s ability to block bad behaviors such as impulse eating while reducing the drive to overeat and snack on unhealthy food.

Exercise Alters Brain Function in a Positive Way

No one knows exactly how exercise changes brain function, but there is evidence that it does. In animals regular physical activity stimulates the growth of new nerve cells and increases blood flow to parts of the brain. It also boosts the production of brain chemicals that stimulate brain cell growth and repair. This enhances cognitive function and memory.

Endurance exercise also promotes the release of mood-boosting chemicals that ease anxiety and relieve depression. That’s why exercise is the ultimate stress reliever. As it turns out, exercise may also help you resist the urge to pull into a drive-thru window and order biggie fries or reach for coconut cream doughnut when the doughnut box is passed around at work.

Researchers also believe that physical activity increases the brain’s sensitivity to satiety hormones that signal you’ve had enough to eat. This means you’re more likely to stop eating after you’ve had a single plate of food rather than heading back to the kitchen for a second or third helping.

Exercise Also Increases Awareness

Another way exercise reduces the desire to overeat is by increasing awareness. Before you began your exercise program, you may not have realized that you need to run 30 minutes on the treadmill to burn off a chocolate chip cookie. When you start working out, you become more aware of the calorie content of foods and how hard you need to work to compensate for them, and you begin to make smarter food choices.

The Bottom Line?

Exercise not only creates slimmer waistlines and more defined muscles, it may change the way you respond to food. That’s why exercise is such an important component of weight loss and weight control. Research shows that people are more successful maintaining weight loss if they work out regularly. Now you know another reason why.


Works Cited:Science Daily. “Exercise Has Numerous Beneficial Effects 0n Brain Health and Cognition, Review Suggests”Medical News Today. “Exercise May Encourage Healthy Eating Via Brain Changes”