By MISTI CRANE
The Columbus Dispatch
Cooking at home generally is thought of as a good life choice. Same with exercise. Plenty of public-health advocates would be happy to tell you that you ought to be doing some of both every day.
But a new study has researchers wondering if we often give up one of those good behaviors for another, opting for the couch after an evening spent cooking or grabbing takeout on the way home from pilates.
Ohio State University researchers looked at diaries that detailed how more than 112,000 Americans say they spent their time, in 10-minute increments. It was a snapshot - one day in the life - versus a longer-term look at how their weeks or months played out.
They found that about 1 in 6 men and 1 in 8 women reported exercising at all. Men spent an average of 17 minutes making food; women, 44 minutes.
The researchers created a statistical model that led them to believe that adults substitute one of these two things for the other.
The more time spent on food prep, the less likely the person was to exercise. This was true for men and women, married and single, parents and nonparents.The study’s lead author, Rachel Tumin, presented her work yesterday in New Orleans at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America. Tumin is working on a doctoral degree in epidemiology.
The study does not demonstrate a cause-and-effect relationship between the two but could be food for thought for public-health advocates who want to encourage healthy lifestyles, she said in an interview.
It’s clear that many Americans are strapped for time and that it sometimes affects their ability to take good care of themselves, said Autumn Trombetta, the section chief of chronic-disease prevention at Columbus Public Health.
She said it’s important for public-health leaders to help Americans understand that they can build exercise into their days without devoting an hour or more at a time to it.
Walking or biking to and from work or school is a good example of making exercise a regular part of the day, Trombetta said.
Licking County Health Commissioner Joe Ebel said the study makes a good point about making time for healthy behavior, but he questioned whether it was fair to assume that more time spent preparing food means that you’re eating better.
“Preparing a meal with lean meats, brown rice, steamed vegetables and fresh fruit takes less time and is healthier than cooking a meal of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and rolls,” he wrote in an email.
He, too, said exercise can be added without taking up big chunks of time. Parking farther away and using the stairs instead of the elevator are good examples, Ebel said.