Food for Thought
If you had to choose, would you rather spend 10 minutes more exercising or 10 minutes more preparing food each day?
A study by researchers at The Ohio State University’s College of Public Health suggests that because of the way Americans allot their time, the two may be mutually exclusive. The study found that a 10-minute increase in food preparation time was associated with a lower probability of exercising for 10 more minutes—among both men and women. The finding applied to single and married adults as well as parents and those with no children.
Researchers analyzed nationally available data on more than 112,000 American adults who had reported their activities for the previous 24 hours.
- Sixteen percent of men and 12% of women reported exercising on the previous day.
- On average, men spent almost 17 minutes preparing food, women about 44 minutes.
- For the entire sample of adults, including those who did not exercise, the average time spent exercising was 19 minutes for men and 9 minutes for women.
- In conclusion, the average respondent, male or female, spent less than an hour on both exercise and food preparation on the same day.
By inserting the data into statistical models, the researchers determined that there is a “substitution effect” for American adults who participate in these two time-consuming health behaviors on the same day.
“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 at OSU. “The data suggest that one behavior substitutes for the other.
“There’s only so much time in a day. As people try to meet their health goals, there’s a possibility that spending time on one healthy behavior is going to come at the expense of the other,” she said. “I think this highlights the need to always consider the trade-off between ideal and feasible time use for positive health behaviors.”