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Exercise following Mental Work Prevented Overeating


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: September 2016 - Volume 48 - Issue 9 - p 1803–1809
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000961
Applied Sciences

Mental work may promote caloric intake, whereas exercise may offset positive energy balance by decreasing energy intake and increasing energy expenditure.

Purpose This study aimed to replicate previous findings that mental work increases caloric intake compared with a rest condition and assess whether exercise after mental work can offset this effect.

Methods Thirty-eight male and female university students were randomly assigned to mental work + rest (MW + R) or mental work + exercise (MW + E). Participants also completed a baseline rest (BR) visit consisting of no mental work or exercise. Visit order was counterbalanced. During the MW + R or MW + E visit, participants completed a 20-min mental task and either a 15-min rest (MW + R) or a 15-min interval exercise (MW + E). Each visit ended with an ad libitum pizza lunch. A two-way repeated-measures ANOVA was used to compare eating behavior between groups.

Results Participants in the MW + R condition consumed an average of 100 more kilocalories compared with BR (633.3 ± 72.9 and 533.9 ± 67.7, respectively, P = 0.02), and participants in MW + E consumed an average of 25 kcal less compared with BR (432.3 ± 69.2 and 456.5 ± 64.2, respectively, P > 0.05). When including the estimated energy expenditure of exercise in the MW + E conditions, participants were in negative energy balance by an average of 98.5 ± 41.5 kcal, resulting in a significant difference in energy balance between the two groups (P = 0.001).

Conclusion An acute bout of interval exercise after mental work resulted in significantly decreased food consumption compared with a nonexercise condition. These results suggest that an acute bout of exercise may be used to offset positive energy balance induced by mental tasks.

1Department of Psychology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL; 2Department of Human Studies, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL; and 3Department of Kinesiology and Sports Management, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX

Address for correspondence: William H. Neumeier, Ph.D., UAB Lakeshore Foundation Research Collaborative, SHPB 341, 1720 2nd Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35294-1212; E-mail:

Submitted for publication December 2015.

Accepted for publication March 2016.

© 2016 American College of Sports Medicine