Do you get frustrated when you hear how much exercise you have to do just to burn the calories in a Mars Bar. Unfortunately too many people hear that and think exercise can't be effective for controlling your weight.
However, according to a recently published study physical activity indirectly modifies eating behavior and may suppress overeating by strengthening an area of the brain responsible for executive function.
Researchers from Boston reviewed available literature on eating behavior at a neurocognitive level and the impact of physical activity on cognition and the brain to investigate whether physical activity and eating behavior share a common neurocognitive mechanism. (They wanted to see how exercise affected the area of the brain that control decision-making and goal setting)
The investigators identified a common neurocognitive link, which related to executive functions relying on brain circuits located in the prefrontal cortex.
Apparently the brain processes have a limited capacity, and undergo strain in an obesogenic environment, where there is ample food and constant messages to eat. The increased demand, overuse, and/or subsequent impairment of these neurocognitive resources were likely to generate impulses to overeat, leading to weight gain and obesity. (This area of the brain gets worn out and people end up giving in to urges to eat)
The researchers found that physical activity enhances the area of the brain for executive functions, and goal-oriented behavior, which are necessary for inhibiting impulsive-eating. Facilitating top-down inhibitory control by increasing physical activity is likely to help suppress the drive to overeat. (People who exercise have better control over the desire to eat and are able to stop eating, even when there is plenty of food available)
So what does it mean?
Although the thought of how far you have to walk or run just to burn up breakfast is enough to make you think it isn't worth the effort, this finding confirms the theory that regular exercise helps people to control the urges to overeat.
To those people who spruik the latest diet and tell you that exercise only makes you eat more, this research shows that isn't the case. In fact, just the opposite. Exercise strengthens that part of the brain that you use to set goals and make decisions that affect your health and your success.
As the research continues, I suspect we will find that being fit and exercising regularly has much greater impact on the brain than once thought. 'Most successful people admit they couldn't achieve what they do if they weren't fit.
Are you fit enough to achieve the things you want?