According to a small study done by scientists in the UK, walking for just 15 minutes per day could be enough to minimize sugary cravings, especially chocolate. The study gathered 25 participants of mostly chocolate eaters and asked them to engage in a daily brisk walk or rest for the same amount of time. The participants were asked to engage in tasks that would normally induce cravings, particularly chocolate, and were asked to pick between walking or lounging in response.
Results showed that participants reported having lower cravings when they walked compared to when they chose to rest. Adrian Taylor, Ph.D., a professor of Health Sciences at the University of Plymouth and one of the researchers, noted that previous studies have suggested that the same technique can be used to reduce nicotine addiction. While the research done by Taylor was modest in size, there are several studies that have also arrived at the same conclusion.
Other studies have shown the benefits of this tactic and that the same can be achieved using a treadmill. Researchers in Austria observed a group of overweight individuals who had considerable cravings for sweet snacks. The participants were made to abstain from sweets for three days and were asked to walk on a treadmill for 15 minutes at a brisk pace. Other participants were asked to sit without doing anything for 15 minutes. After the sessions were complete, the volunteers were asked to hold a piece of candy without consuming it.
The individuals who brisk walked on the treadmill significantly showed less interest in eating the candy compared to the participants who sat passively. Researchers suggested that the results might be connected to how walking can improve one’s mood and regulate blood sugar more effectively. Both factors have an impact on cravings.
Another study done with 3,000 participants in Tokyo showed that spending at least a bit of time outside each day improved a person’s emotional health. The results were shown to be consistent among all age groups. Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, Ph. D., a professor in Environmental Epidemiology at the Barcelona Institute for Global Research suggested that outdoor activity can lead to more interest in exercise, helping in crushing cravings. Nieuwenhuijsen added, “We know that green space can reduce stress and improve mental health, and may lead to more physical activity and social contacts. That can have a range of benefits, from an improved immune system to better sleep to healthier eating choices.”
Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of “Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less,” stated that a brief walk could provide a measure of prevention for the future as it gives a person more resilience to reduce cravings from happening in the first place. He added, “We tend to think of rest as complete physical relaxation like we’re lounging or lying down, but there’s a great deal to be said for getting more stress relief through a break that includes activity, like a walk.”
Actively resting through a walk can teach the mind to anticipate and embrace the activity. If a trigger for craving comes up, a person can pivot toward the activity instead of reaching for candy. Pang also stated that it’s important for dealing with one of the major causes of cravings. Stress can manifest in a variety of ways such as fatigue, boredom, irritation, and the like. Individuals tend to turn to sugary foods when stressed, thinking that they can give them a boost. While that may be true, the boost is only temporary in nature and once the sugar goes down, individuals often feel more stressed than before. A walk may be able to break the cycle.
“Best of all, there’s no downside here. If you’re trying to cut down on sugar or you’re feeling cravings because you’re stressed or fatigued, take that 15-minute walk break; you might be surprised at how much it can do,” Pang concluded.