young fitness woman legs walking on forest trail

When your junk food cravings kick in, what do you do? Do you tear into a bag of chips or candy, or do you hope eating an apple will absolve your hunger pains? Giving into your sweet tooth can derail your diet, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

A new study published in PLOS ONE found taking a brisk 15-minute walk can alleviate your cravings for something sweet. Researchers from the University of Innsbruck in Austria and Plymouth University in the UK examined 47 overweight adults with a fondness for sugary snacks. All participants were asked to refrain from eating sweets for three days before being separated into two groups. One group took a brisk 15-minute walk before unwrapping a sugary snack, while the other remained inactive. Those who walked found their hunger pangs decreased afterward.

This isn’t the first study that suggests walking can keep your junk food cravings at bay. In an earlier study, researchers at the University of Exeter in the UK found that a 15-minute walk can cut snacking on chocolate at work in half. Even in stressful situations, workers only ate half as much chocolate as they usually would after a short walk. Those who walked ate 15 grams of chocolate, compared to the 28 grams consumed by those who did not exercise.

While it’s evident that walking can curb your cravings, you may be wondering why that is. Research has found that walking and other forms of aerobic exercise might affect the release of the hormones ghrelin and peptide YY, which help regulate your appetite. Aerobic exercise has a greater impact on curbing your appetite than nonaerobic activities like weightlifting. Walking may also make you feel full sooner and less hungry throughout the day to help you maintain a healthy weight.

So, when you find yourself reaching for an unhealthy snack, take a short brisk walk to curb your cravings.

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