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Adults Are Forced to Choose Either Exercise or Cooking, Study Reports

Update Date: Apr 12, 2013 12:43 PM EDT

Despite having so many hours within a day, people often complain about not having enough time for other tasks after the workday is over. People are then forced to prioritize their hobbies, forcing them to give up on certain tasks just to be able to perform others. According to a new study, American adults often have to choose between making dinner and heading to the gym, but not both. The study found that this trade-off could be applied to both single and married people with or without children, and suggests that personal health is greatly affected regardless of which task the individual chooses to do.

The researchers from the Ohio State University's College of Public Health looked at the data provided from 112,037 American adults. These participants were required to provide the details of their day 24 hours before the survey, which took place between 2003 and 2010. The researchers reported that 16 percent of men and 12 percent of women exercised. The overall average time that people spent exercising was 19 minutes for men and nine minutes for women. This statistic also factored in people who did not exercise. The data also revealed that men spent an average of 17 minutes preparing food while women spent an average of 44 minutes. Based from these numbers and using statistical models, the researchers found that people tended to substitute one for the other.

"As the amount of time men and women spend on food preparation increases, the likelihood that those same people will exercise decreases. The data suggests that one behavior substitutes for the other," the lead author of the study, Rachel Tumin explained. Tumin is a doctoral student in epidemiology from the University.

The researchers found that more specifically for single and childless men, an extra 10 minutes for food preparation led to a three percent decrease in the chances of exercising in that particular day. Despite this finding, the researchers stated that there were some limitations to the study. For example, the survey only measured one day's worth of activity. However, since the sample group was large, the size suggests that the findings can be applied.

"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. I think this highlights the need to always consider the trade-off between ideal and feasible time use for positive health behaviors," Tumin stated.

The study's findings provide insight into how certain habits might be preventing other ones. If more people are aware that preparing foods is indirectly causing them to spend less time at the gym, they can be more active about prepping food in advance or prepping foods in a more efficient way. Furthermore, since it is a trade-off, people can decide on doing either one on different days as a means to balance their lifestyles. 

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