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Health Answers

Does exercise increase or decrease your appetite?

(Frank Franklin II/associated press)
By Judy Foreman
November 10, 2008
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Immediately after vigorous exercise, appetite decreases, probably because of a temporary rise in body temperature, specialists say. But as soon as body temperature normalizes, appetite goes up.

So if you're trying to lose weight, exercise alone - without calorie restriction - doesn't help much. Exercise increases appetite because the body burns calories as you exercise, and this stimulates appetite to make up for the expended calories, said Dr. James Fries, a professor of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine.

The real issue "is whether the extra calories taken in are more or less than the increased ones being burned," Fries adds. If you exercise away 300 calories and only compensate by eating 200 more, you can lose weight.

"Even if you do not lose weight, regular exercise will greatly reduce your risk of chronic disease and extend your life expectancy," says William J. Evans, an exercise physiologist and chair of nutritional longevity at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Exercise burns fewer calories than many people think. "Walking for 40 minutes a day may spend an extra 150 calories" says William J. Evans, an exercise physiologist and chair of nutritional longevity at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. That's less than the average chocolate chip cookie.

"There is also evidence," says Evans, "that many people who initiate an exercise program compensate by becoming less active for the rest of the day, thinking, "No, I don't really want to go for a walk, I have already done my exercise."

Weight lifting, as opposed to aerobic exercise, does increase lean body mass and metabolic rate, which can result in the body's burning more calories per day. "However, I don't think that either form of exercise has much of an effect on appetite," Evans says.

Bottom line? Exercise because it's terrific for your general health. To lose weight, though, you have to eat right as well.

E-mail health questions to foreman@globe.com.

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