Can’t resist a chocolate bar, especially if it’s right at your fingertips? Actually, you can: just go for a walk.
A study published in PLOS One has found that a fifteen minute walk can help people resist the urge to eat a chocolate bar, even if said people are fat, stress, or even have said chocolate bar right in hand. The study involved forty-seven overweight people who said they ate “highly caloric sugary snacks, such as chocolate” daily. Just to make it fun, all the participants refrained from eating said snacks for three days prior to the experiment.
In the lab, half of the participants took a brisk fifteen-minute walk on a treadmill, while the others sat quietly and did nothing. Then, all the participants did a stroop test, which involves looking at a computer screen that shows you words for colours written in different colours—for example, the word ‘yellow’ written in blue. Participants had to look at the words and say the word, as opposed to the colour—needless to say, the test is a pain in the ass and it’s been shown to increase stress, which is why it was included in the experiment. Finally, all the participants were given a chocolate bar, told to unwrap it and handle it for thirty seconds, and then not eat it. At each part of the experiment, participants levels of craving, heart rate, and blood pressure were measured.
Researchers found that the stroop test did increase stress, which increased food cravings, but the effect was lessened in those who took the walk. Also, as you’d expect, handling the chocolate increased levels of craving, but exercise also lessened this effect.