Chocolate and Exercise

Chocolate and Exercise

How to beat Depression and Feel Better

No you’re not dreaming!  Chocolate and exercise really can be the perfect combination.   So stop beating yourself up when you open the longed for box of brown sweet stuff, and certainly don’t throw it in the bin!  But read on and find out why chocolate can stay, because combined with some exercise, if it’s not already in your good books, chocolate could become an official mood lifting guilt-free pleasure!

Not only is chocolate great tasting, it has proven clinical benefits too.  And at a time when more people are depressed than ever before, then something that’s reasonably affordable, available and delicious to eat, and which can assist with Depression, has got to be worth a look.  And, since everyone will get depressed at some time of their life, it’s worth remembering that chocolate can help on many levels.

As with all foods however, it’s finding the will power to control the amount we consume.  Clearly if chocolate’s eaten in abundance, then it will cause a diet imbalance and potential weight gain.   And remember, chocolate doesn’t contain the good ingredients such as fibre which aids digestion; its lacking many key nutrients; and it won’t exactly provide you with a satisfying meal, but it will give you a mood enhancing feeling, even if only temporary.

So why is this?  Well Cocoa, the key ingredient of chocolate, is a potent source of chemicals containing neurotransmitters.  Its these chemicals which help alleviate depression through promoting feelings of well-being.  Plus cocoa contains monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO Inhibitors) which help improve our mood because they allow two key chemicals, serotonin and dopamine, to remain in the bloodstream longer and circulate in the brain without being broken down. And this is good news because as we age, the level of neurotransmitters decreases leading to less creativity, less joy, less flexibility – and more rapid aging! Yet with its supply of MAO inhibitors, Cocoa helps keep plenty of neurotransmitters in circulation, and therefore promotes anti-aging and rejuvenation.  So this together with the blissful feelings that chocolate can provide, means chocolate could surely be considered ‘good for you’.  The fact that it also contains B vitamins helping to release energy from food and aiding the formation of the body’s defences is another reason.  Plus Vitamin D which helps the uptake of calcium and phosphorus and which is good for teeth and bones.  And Vitamin E which has antioxidant properties, and so helps to build muscle, promote the production of red blood cells, and protect cell walls are all plus points for enjoying your favourite little brown treat.

If we therefore consider why we may crave chocolate in the first place and more seriously think about why we may feel Depressed, we realise it can take many forms and occur for many reasons.  Its well known to hit post-natally, occur after bereavement, significant loss, illness or life changing situations.  Yet many people also feel depressed due to money worries, relationship issues, redundancy or being caught up in a shocking series of events.  Indeed Depression is one of the most common problems GPs encounter on a daily basis.  Often symptoms can be wide-ranging and can manifest in different ways.  Its only through careful questioning that Depression can be found to be the root cause.  For example stress can make you miserable and down, but Depression tends to last for weeks and months.  A feeling of being unable to gain pleasure from any activity that you would normally enjoy.  Feeling tired all the time, losing interest in food (or conversely over-eating), not wishing to see anybody, feeling anxious, irritable and losing self-confidence.  Sometimes feelings of guilt, hopelessness and even suicide can prevail.  So Depression really is an illness for serious concern, but there are solutions….

The Samaritans is a fantastic organisation that can assist anyone feeling Depressed or desperate.  Purely by picking up the phone and talking to somebody, can make a desperate person feel there’s hope and reason to carry on.  And whilst exercise and chocolate combined can assist with short term mood enhancers, and exercise can certainly give individuals a focus for living and achieving, the chemical release associated with these two phenomena has clinical benefits too.  How tragically ironic therefore, that the London Marathon Runner who shockingly died in this year’s race just 1 mile before the finish line was raising funds for The Samaritans, the very organization that aims to help those potentially contemplating an early death.

So the moral of the story is:  If you’re feeling really down, there is help out there.  If you like chocolate, then you are allowed to eat it in moderation without any guilt.  And as for exercise, it will benefit you both mentally and physically. But let’s also remember, if you exercise hard, it does have its risks in extreme situations.  However, as a former member of the Armed Forces, far better I say to get out there, speak to someone and do something you love doing and believe in, than to wait for life’s crises to take hold.

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