Forget the diet and start working out. Research has found that when people start exercising regularly, they choose to eat healthier naturally…

Are you struggling to stick to your healthy diet New Year’s resolution?

Instead of suffering, starving and salivating while watching your friends and family chow down, try exercise.

In a study of 2 680 people, the University of Texas researchers found that, when participants exercised, even though they were instructed not to change their diets it happened anyway.

All you need is 30 minutes three times a week

After doing 30-minute aerobic workouts three times a week for 15 weeks, formerly sedentary participants preferred healthy lean meats, fruits and vegetables, while preferences for fried foods and sodas decreased.

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How does regular exercise help us to eat healthier?

This study did not examine the mechanism at work behind the food preference changes, what we do know is that exercise affects dopamine levels.

Interestingly, previous research in animals found that moderate exercise can reduce the preference for high-fat foods through changes in dopamine levels.

Several studies have also shown a relationship between the intensity of exercise and the amount of appetite-regulating hormones in the body.

“The process of becoming physically active can influence dietary behaviour,” said Molly Bray, corresponding author of the paper and chair of the Nutritional Sciences Department at UT Austin and a paediatrics faculty member at Dell Medical School. “One of the reasons that we need to promote exercise is for the healthy habits it can create in other areas. That combination is very powerful.”

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Although the study included people between the ages of 18 and 35, Bray says that changing food-preference when people exercise would probably be consistent across a wide span of ages.

“Many people in the study didn’t know that they had this active, healthy person inside them,” Bray said. “Some of them thought their size was inevitable. Many of these young people are choosing what to eat and when to exercise for the first time in their lives.”

Participants who said that they exercised less than 30 minutes a week at the beginning of the study started 30-minute aerobic workouts three times a week for 15 weeks, with instructions not to change their diet in any significant way.

The exercise sessions consisted of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at 65-85 percent of the person’s age- and gender-specific maximum heart rate, along with a five-minute warm-up and a five-minute cool-down. Participants wore heart-rate monitors and could choose from a variety of exercise types, such as on stationary bikes, treadmills or elliptical machines.

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Source: University of Texas at Austin via

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.