There is increasing evidence that exercise training may facilitate weight management via improvements in homeostatic appetite control, but little is known about how exercise training affects food reward and susceptibility to overeating.
This study examined changes in food reward and eating behavior traits after a supervised 12-wk exercise intervention (10.5 MJ·wk−1) in inactive individuals with overweight/obesity (exercisers; n = 46, 16 men/30 women; mean (SD) body mass index, 30.6 (3.8) kg·m−2; and mean (SD) age, 43.2 (7.5) yr) compared with nonexercising controls (n = 15; 6 men/9 women; mean (SD) body mass index, 31.4 (3.7) kg·m−2; and mean (SD) age, 41.4 (10.7) yr). Liking and wanting scores for high-fat relative to low-fat foods were assessed with the Leeds Food Preference Questionnaire before and after consumption of an isoenergetic high-fat or high-carbohydrate lunch. Eating behavior traits were assessed using the Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire and Binge Eating Scale.
A week–group interaction indicated that wanting scores decreased from baseline to postintervention in exercisers only (M∆Pre–Post = −4.1, P = 0.03, ηp2 = 0.09, 95% confidence interval [CI], −7.8 to −0.4), but there was no exercise effect on liking. There was also a week–group interaction for binge eating, which decreased in exercisers only (M∆Pre–Post = −1.5, P = 0.01, ηp2 = 0.11; 95% CI, −2.7 to −0.4). A small reduction in disinhibition was also apparent in exercisers (M∆Pre–Post = −0.7, P = 0.02, ηp2 = 0.10; 95% CI, −1.3 to −0.1).
This study showed that 12 wk of exercise training reduced wanting scores for high-fat foods and trait markers of overeating in individuals with overweight/obesity compared with nonexercising controls. Further research is needed to elucidate the mechanisms behind these exercise-induced changes in food reward.