James J. Annesi

Effects of cardiovascular exercise on eating behaviours: Accounting for effects on stress, depression‐, and anger‐related emotional eating in women with obesity

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Applied Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • General Medicine

AbstractObesity remains a medical issue of great concern. Behavioural methods attempting to induce weight loss have largely failed because of a minimal understanding of stress‐ and depression‐associated psychosocial correlates. This study extended research into the effects of exercise on weight loss through psychological pathways to improve treatments. Women with obesity (N = 108), participating in an original theory‐driven cognitive‐behavioural treatment within community‐based health promotion centres, were evaluated over 24 months. Their mean scores on anxiety, depression, and anger at baseline were significantly higher than normative data from a general sample of United States women. Three serial mediation models were specified assessing mediation of the significant exercise→dietary change relationship. These yielded two significant paths: changes in exercise→anxiety→anxiety‐associated emotional eating→self‐efficacy→diet, and changes in exercise→depression→depression‐associated emotional eating→self‐efficacy→diet; and one non‐significant path: changes in exercise→anger→anger‐associated emotional eating→self‐efficacy→diet. In a subsequent moderated moderation model, change in eating‐related self‐regulation moderated the relationship between changes in anxiety and anxiety‐associated emotional eating, where exercise‐associated self‐regulation moderated effects from eating‐related self‐regulation. Dietary improvement was significantly related to weight loss over 6 (β = −0.40), 12 (β = −0.42), and 24 (β = −0.33) months. Findings indicated an increased treatment focus on the completion of moderate amounts of exercise for weight loss and, following that, attention to improvements in anxiety, depression, anxiety‐ and depression‐associated emotional eating, self‐efficacy for controlled eating, and the transfer of exercise‐related self‐regulation to eating‐related self‐regulation. Given the scope of the obesity problem, extensions of this research within field settings are warranted to accelerate application opportunities.

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