Wednesday, December 21, 2011

How much exercise is that cookie worth?

I came across this interesting blog post on Chatelaine and looked at the article on Marie Claire that it referenced and the idea intrigues me: put exercise labels on junk food, as well as calorie labels. The idea is that telling people how much exercise they'll have to do to burn off the junk food they're about to consume will encourage them to make healthier choices and not eat that doughnut.

The Marie Claire article cited a study that showed sales in pop dropped after people knew how much exercise was required to burn it off. I find this fascinating and knowing how much exercise that cookie will cost me is much more helpful than knowing how many calories are in it. I think that people (me included) vastly overestimate the amount of calories they burn when exercising. I know that the calories burned counter on cardio machines is often wrong (in an overestimating sense) but seeing 453 calories burned after 45 minutes of exercise feels...paltry. And knowing it's likely less feels even worse.

Of course, arguments will be made against this idea because people can burn more or less calories depending on their fitness level. But I think that people who are fit already avoid junk food or at least indulge infrequently enough to not need to worry about burning off the bad food. With obesity rates rising in children and the sedentary lifestyle becoming the rule, I think it's a good idea, especially with food and beverages that people think are healthier. Would a parent be less likely to give a child a huge glass of Sunny D if it would take an hour of exercise to burn it off?

And that's what I'd like to see: how much exercise it would take to cancel out the "healthy" foods we're led to believe are better for us because the TV says they are high in calcium or made with whole grains or are fat-free. I know a Big Mac is bad; tell me how bad that fat-free popcorn is or the sugar-free yogurt.

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