NPR shared some commentary on a study conducted by Cornell about walking. The idea was simple: when people went for a walk under the impression that the walk was a scenic tour, they were less likely to splurge on chocolate pudding after the walk. Another group went for the same walk. This walk was treated as an exercise, and those people were 35% more likely to indulge in more pudding. Exercise often makes people want to reward themselves. The commentary concluded that there is a relationship with the perception of exercise, and the necessity to “make workouts fun”.
The main idea is confusing activity with exercise and thinking that exercise is important for good health. We don’t need structured exercise; we need activity that is enjoyable, stimulating, and challenging. Healthy people like to be active; they are naturally drawn to walking and other activities, sports, or projects. We enjoy a natural activity because it is, for lack of a scientific word, fun and engaging. When children are at play, they do not want to eat. Food is far from their minds when they are playing. But when you tell kids to do their homework, or clean their room, they’ll almost always suddenly be hungry. Play is an open-ended experience that enhances our appetite for healthy food, to sustain our healthy play.
Most of my clients report that they greatly enjoy their walks. Walking is a natural activity and different from a being on a treadmill or taking power-walk. Walking as a part of your daily life or for the sake of walking is fun; you can simply enjoy observing what’s around you or let your mind wander. Integrating activities that you enjoy doing that are fun and challenging to you is like being a child at play.
Less structured exercise leads to less unhealthy snacking. In a recent blog about snacking, I talked about how snacking is perhaps a general response to a deeper frustration we may have. Feeling like we have another task at hand that is exercising is another form of work. And as they say, “All work and no play…”