Do you know how physical activity influences eating behavior?

Tempo de Leitura: 3 minutos

Maintaining healthy eating habits is not an easy task nowadays, there is ample access to highly caloric and highly palatable foods on a day-to-day and day-to-day life. This combined with low levels of physical activity leads to a higher risk of health problems, as a higher risk of mortality from chronic diseases such as type II diabetes, hypertension and obesity, in addition to potentiating physiological aging. Thus, physical activity influences eating behavior.

The response of individuals exposed to an adipogenic environment varies, because not all individuals become obese when exposed to it. Some individuals may be genetically predisposed to become obese because they have the fat mass and protein associated with obesity (i.e. the FTO gene), which increases appetite. Nevertheless in more active individuals, the effect of this gene has been reversed, as physical activity can compensate for genetic predisposition.

Still, this population trend indicates that energy intake chronically exceeds the daily need. While the benefits of a balanced diet are obvious, many people do not adher to these recommendations, and only dietary interventions may not be enough to change eating behaviors.

Theories about human behavior

Theoretical models on behavior change can help create effective strategies to promote healthy behaviors, such as a balanced diet. Learn the main theories:

  • The theory of self-determination states that this motivation comes from internal factors, i.e. from the identification of the individual. Therefore have a sense of choice, interest and satisfaction and, as a result, tend to persist in long-term behavior.
  • Non-self-determined motivation presupposes that behavior performance is imposed by external factors and therefore individuals feel a sense of obligation and pressure and tend to adhere to the conduct only while the external factor is present. This action is likely to be abandoned if the stimulus is removed.

Self-determined regulation of eating habits leads to better types of eating behavior. Thus, a diet less influenced by external, emotional factors and with less restrictive attitudes. On the other hand, individuals with non-self-determined regulation have more harmful eating habits, i.e., external (e.g., eating behavior controlled by significant others) and internal (e.g., perception of a poor body image)i nfluenciando in an emotional diet and a restrictive behavior.

And how does physical activity influence eating behavior?

Individuals who engage in physical activity have a more self-determined regulation of their eating habits, gaining greater control over their eating behavior.

It is important to comment that other studies have shown that an increase in the practice of exercise can lead one person to believe that they do not need to be so careful with eating, since one habit compensates for the other. This is described by the Compensatory Model of Health Beliefs, which states that negative impacts can be offset by beneficial behavior.

And in fact, a higher level of physical activity can lead to an individual having less restrictive eating behaviors, but this is not necessarily synonymous with having a more balanced diet as a result of a higher level of physical activity. It is crucial to note that several elements and processes influence behavior and food choice, and physical activity is only one of the influences to be considered in these interactions, with others perhaps overlapping.

Clinical practice

The practice ofphysical activity is associated with a self-determined eating behavior, which decreases the chances of restrictive diets, binge eating and external factors associated with diet. Similarly, lack of physical activity can lead to greater adhering to the restrictive diet, which is linked to overeating and weight gain. Dietary restriction is often associated with a propensity to overeat, emotional eating, and external eating. In addition, the risk of regaining weight can be minimized by increasing physical activity, which not only increases caloric expenditure, but also reduces feelings of tension and improves emotional well-being, contributes to long-term weight loss.


Study suggestion:
Physical Activity – Science Play

Watch the video on Science Play with Leonardo Matta
: Obesity and Exercise

Article: Fernandes V, Rodrigues F, Jacinto M, Teixeira D, Cid L, Antunes R, Matos R, Reigal R, Hernández-Mendo A, Morales-Sánchez V, Monteiro D. How Does the Level of Physical Activity Influence Eating Behavior? A Self-Determination Theory Approach. Life. 2023; 13(2):298.

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