A 2014 research review found in Marketing Letters examined three studies that explored the relationship between diet and exercise for weight loss. Interestingly, the review looked at the association between people’s framing of exercise as fun and their subsequent food choices. It concluded that those who perceived exercise as a fun activity (and not just a ton of effort) were less inclined to compensate with junk food after their workouts.
In the first two studies, participants performed exercises that were either described as exercise, or as fun, and were later served food: an all-you-can-eat scenario with both desserts and “normal” foods in the first study, and M&Ms from a self-serve container in the second. The findings from both suggest that the people who felt exercise was “fun” chose less junk food during those meals. Similarly, runners that had fun during a race in the third study tended to choose the healthier option of two given snacks.