Behavioural Support of a Proposed Neurocognitive Connection Between Physical Activity and Improved Eating Behaviour in Obese Women

James J. Annesi, Kennesaw State University
Kandice J. Porter, Kennesaw State University


Problem: An explanation of the association between physical activity and improved eating behaviours has recently been posited via the effect of physical activity on executive functions of the brain resulting in a reduction in the hedonic drive to overeat. Decomposition and clarification of embedded relationship through a behavioural/psychological framework was sought. Methods: Changes in theory-based psychosocial factors over 26 weeks were tested with 134 severely obese women (age 41.7 ± 10.4 years) initiating a physical activity support treatment. Mediation and reciprocal effects analyses incorporating these changes were then computed. Results: Significant improvements in mood, self-regulation for eating, and self-efficacy for controlled eating were found. Emanating from mood change, a reciprocal relationship between changes in the self-regulation and self-efficacy measures was found. Thus, each factor reinforced the other's change. Conclusion: Findings suggest a convergence of neurocognitively and behaviourally based explanations of the relations of physical activity and controlled eating. Implications for behavioural weight-loss theory and treatments were suggested.