Exercise or cook food?

Americans seem to choose one over the other

Clock with cooking itemsKitchen time or Gym time? That seems to be the question. If you cook longer, you exercise less; if you exercise longer, you spend less time cooking. That's the revelation of a new study of Americans by the Ohio State University. And it does not matter if you are a man or woman, are single or married, have children or not —this behaviour was observed across a wide variety of individuals.

The research team went through tons of data—activity records of 112,000 adults. The analysis revealed some interesting numbers:

  • 16 per cent of men exercised the previous day.
  • 12 per cent women exercised the previous day.
  • Men spent 17 minutes preparing food.
  • Women spent 44 minutes preparing food.
  • Average time spent on exercising by men [including those men who did not exercise] was 19 minutes. This figure was arrived at through the formula: total time exercised by men/[number of men who exercised + number of men who did not exercise]
  • Average time spent in exercising by women [including those women who did not exercise] was nine minutes.This figure was arrived at through the formula: total time exercised by women/[number of women who exercised + number of women who did not exercise]

By inserting the data into statistical models, the researchers concluded that this was a substitution effect at work."As the amount of time men and women spend on food preparation increases, the likelihood that those same people will exercise more decreases," said Rachel Tumin, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in epidemiology in The Ohio State University's College of Public Health. "The data suggest that one behaviour substitutes for the other."

"If we assume, for example, that adults have 45 minutes of free time to allocate to health-promoting behaviours, maybe we need to look at that holistically and determine the optimal way to use that time," she said.

Tumin however acknowledged that since the data captured only one day's activity, her analysis does not consider a case where the participants cook longer one day and exercise more the next day.

"For time-intensive behaviours, public health officials may need to triage their recommendations by how much total time they think people have to spend on these activities each day," Tumin and her colleagues concluded. "If adults have a set time budget to devote to healthy behaviours, then recommendations should be tailored to make efficient use of that time budget."

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