The Scale of Exercise vs. Food

Exercising time drops when more time spent preparing food and vice versa

(RxWiki News) With only 24 hours in a day, busy Americans can have trouble balancing time for exercise with other activities, specifically when food is involved.

Adults who spent more time preparing food spent less time exercising, according to research presented at a conference.

Though the results have not yet been peer-reviewed, the findings were the same for both genders and regardless of household structure, according to researchers.

"Plan when to exercise and cook."

Rachel Tumin, MS, a doctoral student in the College of Public Health at Ohio State University, led a team of researchers in investigating whether individuals made time for exercise and for meal and food preparation.

Researchers looked at the American Time Use Surveys by the US Census Bureau conducted between 2003 and 2010, including data from more than 112,000 people. The surveys covered a single day in the participants' lives.

They investigated whether exercise time is affected by the time spent preparing food and a family's household structure.

Leisure time exercise and all activities related to food preparation were noted. Researchers divided the activities into 10-minute blocks.

Researchers found that a 10-minute increase in food preparation time decreased the time spent exercising by 10 minutes. The same was true for both men and women.

Comparing the genders separately, every 10 minutes spent preparing food among single childless men meant a 3 percent increase in the chance of not exercising.

For men in relationships, food preparation time was negatively linked with the odds of not exercising entirely.

Men and women reported exercising 19 and 9 minutes a day respectively with only 16 percent of men and 12 percent of women taking part in exercise on the survey day.

At the same time, food preparation time took up 44 minutes among women and less than 17 minutes among men. In total, men and women both spent less than an hour on both exercise and food preparation.

"Devoting more time to one activity inherently limits the amount of time available for other activities," researchers wrote in their report.

"Both of the health behaviors we studied are time-intensive, whereas many of the health behaviors considered elsewhere are not, especially non-activities such as not using tobacco."

The authors noted a few limitations with the study, including that the survey only covered a single day and exercise only included activities done in leisure time.

Future studies should look into what combinations of time spent exercising and preparing food most benefit families and individuals with different time budgets, according to researchers.

The study was presented April 12 at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America in New Orleans. The findings have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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Review Date: 
April 10, 2013