Does Exercise Actually Make You Happier?
Fitness & TrainingWellness Nov 10, 2017
Does Exercise Actually Make You Happier?

Does exercise really make you happier? According to a number of studies, including a new one published in early January, the answer to that question is a resounding yes. And what’s better? It doesn’t even have to be strenuous exercise.

What do Smartphones have to do with Exercise and Happiness?

Smartphones have a lot to do with exercise and happiness. Or at least they have a lot to do with a recent study from researchers at the University of Cambridge, in England. According to the study, which was summed up by the New York Times, researchers decided to go in the direction than other studies between the correlation between happiness and exercise have gone in the past. They developed a special app for participants in their study to use on their Android phones.

The app was ultimately downloaded by 10,000 women and men and asked participants questions throughout the day regarding their mood, and to assess their overall satisfaction with life. After a time, the app began also asking the users what they had been doing physically in the past 15 minutes, including sitting up, lying down, walking, running, or doing something else.

What researchers found during the 17 months of the study was that the participants reported more positive moods when they’d been engaged in some physical activity, as opposed to sitting or lying down. Most often, the physical activity reported was gentle walking. Further, the study found that these results were true regardless of the time of day or whether it was a weekday or a weekend. Those who moved more frequently reported a greater satisfaction with their lives than those who spent more time sitting or lying down.

Past Studies

The University of Cambridge study backed up previous studies which said the same thing: Activity brings contentment. An article published in Total Wellness in 2016 highlighted some of the results of those studies:

  • A study in 2014, published in the European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, found that exercise at least three times a week improved the moods of patients suffering from the symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder. Further, the studies have revealed that the psychological benefits of exercise last longer than the effects of antidepressants.
  • In 2001, the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness published findings of a study that showed that aerobic exercise releases feelings of fatigue, tension and anger.
  • A 2004 study, published by Behavior Research and Therapy, found that high and low aerobic exercise both serve to reduce anxiety.
  • Psychiatria Polska, in 2004, published an article in which it spoke of the body’s release of endorphins and monoamines after exercise. Endorphins are neurotransmitters, which combat feelings of pain or stress. Monoamines are also neurotransmitters, which are believed to protect the brain against stress and may help it recover from mental disorders.

The Take Away

Activity and happiness go hand in hand, both in the long term as well as the short term. Those who are active tend to be more satisfied with their lives overall and, in the moments when they are active, they tend to be happier than in the moments when they are sedentary.

There are, of course, limits to such a study — it may not have accurately displayed moods during more strenuous exercises, as many people don’t carry their smartphones when they are running, cycling, or participating in sports. However, when combined with past studies, there is a compelling argument that exercise isn’t just good for the body, it’s good for the mind, as well.