What if chocolate awaited you after finishing a run? And what if you were rewarded with more if you chose to run an extra mile or throw in a few quick strides?
Researchers in Australia are in the process of finding out how the sweet treat will motivate study participants to exercise each day.
For the experiment, 10 families of varying fitness levels had a 3-D printer installed in their house. At the end of each day, the device will print objects made out of dark chocolate. (The cocoa-rich variety actually boasts some serious health benefits.) The size and shape of the chocolate is dictated by each family's activity through the day, measured using a heart-rate monitor. The families will participate in the study for two weeks.
"We are transforming everyday physical activity data into different shapes such as flowers, smileys, and cheerful messages that are printed in chocolate," said Rohit Knot, one of the researchers behind the project. "If the user is active, he gets a smiley face and cheerful message like 'U rock!' but if the user has been sedentary, we print a frowny face and a motivating message like 'Never mind, start from tomorrow.'"
Wondering what would happen if you worked out all day long?
Unfortunately, the printer won't dish out a plate full of chocolate; it will stop dispensing once it hits 30 ml, which amounts to a little less than a standard-sized Hershey's bar.
"The idea is not the look into the quantity of the chocolate as reward but rather use chocolate as a nudge to make exercise enjoyable," Knot said.
The research team chose chocolate for the study because of its appeal and because it's the easiest food 3-D printers can work with given the technology available today. If the study is successful, Knot said they will try using healthier foods in the future.
"We are trying to figure out and understand the potential affects of personalized 3-D-printed chocolates on individual's relationship with physical activity," Knot said. "The idea is to communicate the fruits of being physically active using a medium which is universally loved."
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