London, Jan 16 (Agencies): Thinking about a workout? It can make you eat 50 per cent more, say researchers.

A new study has revealed that just thinking about physical exercise makes people eat more -- in fact, those who read and think about exercising eat 50 per cent more food, the 'Daily Mail' reported.

According to the researchers, it is due to a subconscious reward theory which suggests that when physical or mental effort is spent on exercising, people reward ourselves by eating more.

"This shows that exercise does not have to be performed to lead to compensation. Just imagining exercising leads participants to serve themselves more food," said lead researcher Dr Brian Wansink of Cornell University.

For their study, the researchers asked two groups to read a scenario describing a 30-minute walk during which they were listening to music or focused on exercising and how tired they felt. The third, a control group, did neither.

Afterwards, the men and women, who did not know the study's purpose, were offered food from bowls of sweet or salty snacks as a reward for their time.

Those who read about exercising ate 58.9 per cent more sweet snacks and 51.9 cent more salty snacks than the control group. Those asked to focus on the reading ate the most – 701 calories each compared with 361 for the control group.

Those who listened to music as they "walked" consumed 616 calories, the findings revealed.

The researchers say while exercising and a balanced diet are the basis of most obesity-prevention campaigns, very little research has been done on how physical exercise may increase food consumption.

They believe one way to tackle the problem is to change attitudes to exercise, so it is not associated with food and weight. "Instead of describing it as a way to lose weight, it can be presented as a crucial way to tone, strengthen bones and improve posture," said Wansink.