Many of the benefits of exercise are well documented. For example, the Mayo Clinic notes that regular exercise may boost your energy levels, reduce your risk of certain diseases, and improve your ability to manage your weight. These benefits are reason enough to jump on a treadmill. But in case you needed extra motivation, researchers at Brigham Young University have reported another potential benefit of staying fit. Their recent study suggests that exercise may help curb your appetite.

The study's findings are counter-intuitive. After all, isn't exercise supposed to help you work up an appetite? Nevertheless, if a stroll in the park could help you stave off a craving for junk food, it might make managing your weight a bit easier.

The Research

In the BYU study, researchers examined brain wave responses in a group of both normal weight and clinically obese women. On the first day of the study, the participants were asked to walk at a brisk pace on a treadmill for 45 minutes. Shortly after, researchers measured their brain wave responses as they viewed images of food. One week later, the experiment was repeated, but without the exercise component.

The researchers found that participants were less responsive to images of food following exercise, regardless of their weight. Not only did all the participants experience a decrease in appetite, but they were more active for the rest of the day and didn't consume extra calories. This led researchers to speculate that exercise may reduce people's motivation for food, rather than increase it.

Despite these interesting results, it's too early to conclude that exercise is a surefire way to curb your hunger. However, this study's findings offer even more support for the idea that exercise and weight management go hand in hand.

Feel the Effects: Start Exercising

If you want to start having more control over your weight, it's time to get active. The American Heart Association recommends that all adults aim to get at least 30 minutes of exercise, five day a week. If that sounds like a major commitment, just remember that you can break your sessions into smaller chunks. A fifteen-minute walk at lunch and a fifteen-minute walk after dinner offer the same benefits. Need a few more ideas to get you motivated? It's simple to add a little exercise to every part of your day:

  • Start your morning off right: Do you start each day in a panic? Try setting your alarm for 20 minutes earlier than usual and use the extra time to do some light stretching. Try HealthAhead's simple yoga moves, or improvise your own routine. Then, if you feel up for it, take a five-minute stroll around your block.
  • Add legwork to your lunchtime: Lunch is the perfect time to add a quick 10 or 15-minute walk to your day. Do you like to go out to eat? Pick a restaurant that requires a little "legwork." Better yet, bring a sandwich and some veggies from home, and invite a coworker to join you for a brisk post-lunch walk.
  • After work: For many people, the hour after work is the easiest time to add a lengthier period of exercise to their day. If you have kids, they may still be at an after-school program or with a babysitter, and you haven't yet returned to your chores at home. Consider using this time to squeeze in a fitness class, like yoga, spinning, or aerobics. You may find that you're more refreshed for the rest of your evening.
  • After dinner: After the dishes are done, you might feel like you just want to lie down. Resist the urge if you can! The post-dinner period is the best time to get your whole family involved in a brief physical activity. Walk off your dinner with a neighborhood stroll or play an active game with your kids. You'll be setting a good example for your children, and adding exercise to your day, too.

HealthAhead Hint: Get Motivated

It's no secret: Exercise may help you manage your weight more effectively. The recent research at BYU doesn't guarantee that working out will halt your appetite, but it does suggest one more link between exercise and maintaining a healthy weight. Now it's time to get motivated. Can you add 30 minutes of exercise to your day, five days per week? It's easier than you think. If you're short on time, focus on adding short walking sessions at convenient times of the day. In the long run, you may just be surprised how a little exercise adds up to make a difference.