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Working Out Facilitates Healthy Eating, and Inactivity Facilitates Poor Diet: Research

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Feb 6, 2020

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A person who engages in physical activity for fun is more likely to eat healthier, and vice versa, according to research published in The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The study added that a person who doesn’t regularly engage in physical activity faces an increased likelihood of having bad health because their low activity levels coincide with an unhealthy diet

“In health care guidance, it would be important to acknowledge that these two health behaviors may facilitate each other,” Irinja Lounassalo, one of the study authors and a doctoral student at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, said in a statement. “For example, when aiming to increase a person’s activity level, improving the quality of diet simultaneously might come rather naturally. This could be a way to promote more holistic well-being.”


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A possible explanation for why these two behaviors occur alongside each other is the transfer effect. According to this effect, acquiring new skills regarding one behavior, such as exercising, can help influence other behaviors, such as eating healthy.

However, a limitation that the newer study noted is that there wasn’t enough detailed information about subgroups that change their behavior over time, information that could have helped researchers arrive at more detailed solutions that push for healthy lifestyles. “Identifying the key groups of individuals and critical windows during the life course that would be the most receptive to physical activity and dietary promotion would contribute to the enhancement of public health,” wrote the researchers. For example, teenagers were less likely to eat fruits and vegetables regardless of physical activity.

“To achieve favorable changes in these behaviors, cross-government and multisectoral approaches that facilitate the integration of physical activity and higher fruit and vegetable consumption in multiple daily settings are needed,” added Lounassalo. “Especially putting effort into adopting or maintaining a physically active lifestyle along with healthy dietary habits, starting from adolescence, would be important for health later in life.”

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Written By Aditi Murti

Aditi Murti is the senior culture writer at The Swaddle, with an interest in cultural analysis, environment, and the science of mental health.  Write to her using aditi@theswaddle.com, or find her on social media @aditimurti.

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