Here’s another plus of breaking a regular sweat: Working out makes your brain desire fatty, high-kilojoule foods even less, reports new research from Harvard Medical School.
Researchers found that compared to people who never exercised, regular gym rats had less reaction to high-calorie meals in brain regions connected with food rewards. People who worked out also rated these foods lower on a desirability scale—particularly ones with savoury flavours like cheeseburgers and fries.
It’s a double-dose: With regular exercise, you burn calories and change the way your brain reacts to certain foods, says study author William Killgore, Ph.D. It could be that exercise enhances sensitivity to leptin—a protein in fat cells that controls appetite and sends signals to your brain to tell you when you’re full. Or it could be that because you often feel better after a workout, exercise acts as its own mental reward making you less likely to need a high-kilojoule snack to munch on and lift your mood, says Killgore.
It’s not too hard to stimulate this brain benefit. Exercisers in the study sweated it out three days a week for about 40 minutes on average.