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Exercise may help curb overeating after a mentally taxing workday: study

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Birmingham, AL – Hitting the gym after a mentally demanding workday may help you eat less, according to a study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The study involved 38 undergraduate students who agreed to take a graduate-level exam. The week before the study, participants were asked to relax for 35 minutes as a control condition, and to not engage in any “mentally or physically” stimulating activities.

On the day of the study, the participants were split into two groups. One group took the exam and then rested for 15 minutes, while the other took the exam and then engaged in a high-intensity 15-minute treadmill workout. Afterward, each group was given an unlimited pizza lunch.

Participants who exercised after the exam ate 25 fewer calories than they did during the previous week when they had relaxed for 35 minutes and then eaten.

In contrast, participants who took the exam and then rested for 15 minutes consumed an average of 100 calories more than when they had relaxed and eaten during the stimulation-free control period.

Researchers said the findings reinforce previous studies that suggest working our brains expends energy and causes feelings of hunger. They concluded that workers who exercise after mentally taxing job tasks are more likely to consume fewer calories than those who remain sedentary.

“The modern work environment is highly sedentary and cognitively demanding,” lead study author William Neumeier said in a press release. “Previous studies have shown that mentally demanding tasks, such as a big test, grant deadlines or other mentally strenuous tasks we perform every day, affect the brain’s energy demands, and increases in food intake were observed following such tasks.”

The study was published in the September issue of the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

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