Should I exercise or eat chocolate to feel good?
Not only does endurance exercise lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, it can also have positive psychological effects as well.
It has been shown by various scientific studies that regular exercise can reduce anxiety,
increase self-confidence, and improve self-esteem. Many psychologists wonder if exercise might be the best way to reduce tension when things are not going well, since it does
such a good job of promoting a sense of mental well-being.
Recently, this question was addressed by researchers in the Department of Psychology at Bar llan University
in Israel. Large numbers of experimental
subjects were asked to solve a difficult mental problem that didn't actually have a solution.
Increased levels of anxiety among participants was created by the frustration of being unable to find the right answer. Some of the irritated and nervous subjects tried to calm down by exercising aerobically after struggling with the problem.
Some other subjects instead enjoyed a chocolate snack, while a third group of them tried to relax using 'positive imagery' to increase their sense of being in control.
A 'control' group did nothing at all pleasing, presumably going on thinking about their poor performance on the problem. When all four groups then tried to complete a second, moderately easy task, the first three groups produced similar reductions in anxiety levels, while the fourth 'control' group found it difficult to concentrate, performing below-par in comparison to the other subjects.
In conclusion, exercise can do a good job of calming people down, but is probably just as good as taking in one's minimum daily requirement of chocolate, or using positive mental images.
However, the Israeli lab have given no word yet on the most crucial question: can you double your reduction in anxiety and feel twice as good about yourself by exercising a lot AND ingesting large chunks of chocolate?