Regular exercise does more than keep your muscles toned and your heart healthy: it’s also likely to give you an appetite for fruits and vegetables that further improve your overall wellbeing, new research has found. The insight comes from a study of more than 6,000 people born between 1980 and 1984, which tracked their eating and exercise habits from the ages of 18-22 and 23-27, and then their eating habits alone from the ages of 27-31 years old.
The team from Indiana University in the US link this to a known phenomenon,known as the transfer effect, where learning new skills and improving in one area of your life automatically triggers a desire for improvements in another. In this case, exercise triggers diet, which is why you might see someone start eating more healthily not long after starting a new gym regime – even if diet changes weren’t originally part of the plan.
There are two main reasons for this, according to the academics behind the study published in the Journal of American College Nutrition. Firstly, exercising regularly and eating well both lead to the same goal of better overall health, so people are able to switch between them easily. Secondly, once someone has made exercise a habit, it no longer needs as much mental effort – that frees up the brain to start scheming about new ways to feel better. On the flip-side, a more intensive workout regime may not leave enough mental energy to focus on a healthy diet as well.
So if you’re heading back to the gym after a long break, make sure you stock up on some fruit and veg first.