Does Exercise Suppress Appetite?

Young Man Running Up Stairs
Aerobic exercise impacts hormones related to appetite. (Image: Chad Baker/Jason Reed/Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Exercise helps burn calories, tone muscles, work your heart and enhance your sense of well-being. If you need more reasons to pull on your running shoes or swim laps, exercise can decrease your appetite. Although it’s a temporary appetite suppression, some people find that exercising makes them reconsider food choices, leading to healthier eating habits, according to ACE Fitness. You might feel less inclined to chow down on pizza or hot wings after completing an afternoon run or morning step class, choosing a veggie sandwich or fruit smoothie instead.

Exercise and Appetite Hormones

Different types of exercise can stimulate different hormones related to appetite, according to a 2008 study published by the American Physiological Society. Aerobic exercise can suppress ghrelin, a hormone that increases appetite, while increasing levels of peptide YY, a hormone that suppresses appetite. Anaerobic exercise, such as weight lifting, can suppress ghrelin; however, peptide YY levels are not significantly affected by anaerobic exercise, making this type of exercise less effective compared to aerobic exercise for suppressed appetite compared to aerobic exercise, such as swimming, biking or running.

Duration, Intensity Matter

Appetite suppression kicks in for aerobic exercise after about 60 minutes; for anaerobic exercise, after about 90 minutes, according to the American Physiological Society. Intensity also matters. Exercising more rigorously will reduce your appetite more than exercising moderately or gently, although moderate and light exercise could also help suppress appetite, according to a 2013 University of Western Australia study published in the "International Journal of Obesity." Weight-bearing exercise is more likely to result in suppressed appetite compared to non-weight-bearing exercise, so jumping rope could make you feel less hungry afterward compared to riding an exercise bike, according to Weseda University’s Faculty of Sport Sciences.

Long-Term Weight Management

People might experience decreased appetite during and directly after exercising, especially with aerobic exercise, according to a 2009 study published in "International Journal of Obesity." Appetite can be affected up to 24 hours after exercising, however, particularly for individuals who exercise strenuously. Although exercise can have short-term effects on decreasing or suppressing appetite, scientific research hasn’t yet proven this to be a long-term strategy for weight loss. Regular exercise, paired with healthy eating, is the best option for long-term weight loss because it combines reduced calorie intake with increased energy expenditure.

Exercise, Appetite and Other Variables

The psychological effects of working out can’t be discounted when it comes to suppressing appetite, according to ACE Fitness. After people exercise, they might feel more inclined to eat healthier because they feel better about themselves. Additionally, exercising doesn’t have across-the-board appetite suppression effects. Men might be more likely to experience a suppressed appetite; women’s bodies could be more hard-wired to conserve calories for childbearing.

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