Healthy eating vs. exercise

Apr 12, 2013 at 4:20 p.m. ET

A survey finds that many people spend less time working out in order to prepare meals.


Healthy eating and exercise are both valuable components of a healthy lifestyle, but do you have to sacrifice one for the other? Turns out, many of us might.

According to a new survey based on U.S. Census data, increasing the time to prepare meals by 10 minutes was linked to a lower likelihood of exercising for 10 more minutes.

Ohio State University researchers say the finding was the same for men and women who were single and married, along with people who did and did not have kids.

So while spending extra time to chop up produce for a meal may be good, it can take time away from another healthy habit such as hitting the treadmill or getting your stretch on in yoga.

The researchers say that public health recommendations need to take into account the time people devote to beneficial lifestyle habits on a given day.

“If we assume, for example, that adults have 45 minutes of free time to allocate to health-promoting behaviors, maybe we need to look at that holistically and determine the optimal way to use that time,” said lead author Rachel Tumin, a doctoral student in epidemiology at the university.

Tumin and her colleagues report that 16 percent of men and 12 percent of women said they had exercised the previous day. The average amount of time spent exercising was 19 minutes for men and 9 minutes for women. On the flip side, the average amount of time men spent preparing meals on the same day was about 17 minutes, while women took 44 minutes to get meals ready.

The study shows that both sexes spent less than an hour on meal preparation and exercise on the same day.

But that doesn’t mean that people put in less time breaking a sweat – the scientists say the survey only covered a 24-hour period, so they aren’t sure if some adults dedicate one day a week to meal preparation, and another for a workout.

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