It might not be the easiest way, but one healthy strategy to beat junk food cravings is to go for a run. A story on Yahoo highlights a recent study in the UK looking at the effects of exercise on cravings.

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Researchers at the University of Leeds recruited 180 people who had their cardiorespiratory levels, body composition and metabolic rates measured. Each person ranked their activity levels as low, moderate or high. Over two days in a lab, participants had their appetite, tastes and satiety levels tracked throughout the day. The most active craved junk food around 10 to 15 percent less than those who spent more time sitting on the couch.

"What we found is that there is a clear relationship between the amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity - raising your heart rate and building up a sweat - and the desire to eat high fat food" says study co-author Dr. Graham Finlayson, professor at University of Leeds, in the Yahoo story.

However, this is an observational study, so there is no way to say for sure that working out directly affects your appetite.

"We can speculate that people who already get their daily reward and enjoyment from exercise are less likely to succumb to the temptation of fatty food," Finlayson explains in the story. "Getting a high from exercise means people aren't looking to get a reward elsewhere.”

So a long gym session may not exactly cure that cookie craving, but you can in fact get a runner’s high from cardio, and that may eliminate the need for a treat. As Elle Woods explained in Legally Blonde, working out creates endorphins, which in turn, make you happy. A completely simplified version of how your body works during exercise, many people do attribute that post-workout boost with the hormone.

J. Kip Matthews, Ph.D, and sport and exercise psychologist, explained to CNN that endorphins are created following stressful or painful experiences, so that bootcamp class definitely counts. The hormone is like your body’s way of creating its own painkiller. In fact, its chemical structure is similar to morphine.

"Endorphins are also involved in natural reward circuits related to activities such as feeding, drinking, sexual activity and maternal behavior," Matthews tells the publication.

So naturally, endorphins are why you feel like taking on the world after a five-mile run, right? Actually, many in the science community no longer believe this.  

CNN reports that a study from Germany found that while your body has a ton of endorphins following a run, they’re found only in the blood and can’t cross over into your brain, which would need to happen for a high to take place. Instead, it looks like anandamide, a neurotransmitter that does travel from the blood to the brain, might be what causes this phenomenon. Or, Matthews tells the site that it could be two other neurotransmitters, serotonin and norepinephrine at play.

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The answer to why we get that high isn’t quite so simple (like most of science), but there’s no denying our bodies experience physical and emotional benefits by being active.

"What appears to be happening is that exercise affords the body an opportunity to practice responding to stress, streamlining the communication between the systems involved in the stress response," Matthews tells CNN. "The less active we become, the more challenged we are in dealing with stress."

See Also:

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