An examination of the mechanisms by which an acute exercise session influences subsequent eating behavior


  • M. Panos
  • T. Mann
  • A. Rothman


Background: Regular performance of multiple health behaviors additively benefits well-being (Loef & Walach, 2012); however, little is known about the psychological pathways by which the performance of one health behavior affects the subsequent performance of a second health behavior. A theoretical model was developed to examine select psychological constructs that might mediate this effect and is tested using exercise and eating behaviors. Methods: In a naturalistic study, participants completed measures assessing the psychological constructs before and after an acute exercise session. They were then given the choice of a healthy or an unhealthy snack. Findings: If the variables of health self-efficacy, health identity strength, and commitment to health goals increase after the exercise session and are related to an increased likelihood of selecting the healthy snack, it will support the hypothesis that a completed exercise session may lead to healthier eating (i.e., a promotion spillover). Discussion: Theoretically, understanding the changes in an individual’s psyche after the performance of a health behavior (e.g., an acute exercise session) and how those changes affect the performance of a subsequent, different health behavior (e.g., snack choice) provides information about how to expand current behavior change models to delineate how people manage multiple health behaviors over time. Practically, elucidating these pathways can be used to design more effective interventions that increase the performance of multiple health behaviors that ultimately would improve overall health.