It is well established that both acute and chronic stress can be detrimental to health and wellbeing by directly increasing the risk of several chronic diseases and related health problems. In addition, stress may contribute to ill-health indirectly via its downstream effects on individuals’ health-related behaviour, such as promoting the intake of unhealthy palatable foods high in fat and sugar content. This paper reviews (a) the research literature on stress-models; (b) recent research investigating stress-induced eating and (c) the potential physiological and psychological pathways contributing to stress-induced eating. Particular attention is given to (d) the role of physical exercise in attenuating acute stress, with exploration of potential mechanisms through which exercise may reduce unhealthy food and drink consumption subsequent to stressor exposure. Finally, exercise motivation is discussed as an important psychological influence over the capacity for physical exercise to attenuate unhealthy food and drink consumption after exposure to stressors. This paper aims to provide a better understanding of how physical exercise might alleviate stress-induced unhealthy food choices.
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