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Forget Calorie Counting, It’s Now All About Counting Gym Time — Health Check

Scott Olson, Getty Images

When it comes to food, would you rather know how many calories you’re ingesting or how much treadmill time it’ll take to burn off the calories?

Think carefully because some now believe displaying the amount of jogging time needed to burn off the calories from a sugary drink — instead of just showing a calorie count — may be more effective in dissuading you from drinking those beverages.

Research with teenagers showed they were less likely to buy sugared drinks and more likely to buy things like bottled water if they knew how long they’d have to exercise to burn off the calorie-laden beverages.

“In general, people are very bad at estimating the amount of calories in food they consume,” said study researcher Sara Bleich, an assistant professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. “If we give them easy ways of examining it… I think we can be effective in reducing calories in purchases.”

Julie Greenstein, deputy director of health promotion policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, found the study intriguing. She said that since mere calorie counts may not mean much to the average person, it’s important to find a way to convey that information in a manner that will be more readily understood, adding, “Sometimes other messages are more beneficial to reducing consumption.”


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