Foods Labelled as ‘Fitness’ Have Unexpected Effect, Study Finds

In tests, trail-mix was labelled as ‘fitness’ with a picture of running shoes.

‘Fitness’ foods actually lead people to eat more and exercise less, a new study finds.

The research tested the effect of how foods are marketed on the amount people actually eat of them.

In the study people were given trail-mix style snacks.

But some were labelled ‘fitness’ with a picture of running shoes on the packaging.

Identical trail-mix snacks were simply labelled trail-mix.

People were told to eat as if they were at home helping themselves to an afternoon snack.

Some of those in the study were actively worried about their weight.


Ironically, it was these people who ate more of the trail-mix when it was labelled ‘fitness’.

They also subsequently did less exercise on a stationary bike.

The study’s authors explain the results:

“Unless a food was forbidden by their diet, branding the product as ‘fit’ increased consumption for those trying to watch their weight.

To make matters worse, these eaters also reduced their physical activity, apparently seeing the ‘fit’ food as a substitute for exercise.

It is important that more emphasis be placed on monitoring fitness cues in marketing.

For example, a brand could offer gym vouchers or exercise tips instead of just implying fitness via a label or image.

Reminding the consumer that exercise is still necessary may help counteract the negative effect of these fitness-branded foods.”

The study was published in theĀ Journal of Marketing Research (Koenigstorfer & Baumgartner, 2015).

Cereal bar image from Shutterstock