You can lift your spirits without a gym membership, wearing Lycra or even leaving the house.
For sedentary people, getting out of the chair is enough to improve happiness, new research finds.
It turns out that very light activity is surprisingly effective in raising people’s level of well-being.
Mr Gregory Panza, the study’s first author, said:
“…simply going from doing no physical activity to performing some physical activity can improve their subjective well-being.
What is even more promising for the physically inactive person is that they do not need to exercise vigorously to see these improvements.
Instead, our results indicate you will get the best ‘bang for your buck’ with light or moderate intensity physical activity.”
Light physical activity is equivalent to a leisurely walk.
The kind of walk that doesn’t make you sweat, breathe faster or even change your heart rate.
Moderate activity is walking fast enough to nudge up your vital signs for around 15 minutes.
Vigorous exercise is equivalent to going for a jog.
The study looked at 419 healthy, middle-aged adults.
The biggest gains in happiness were seen among those who were the most sedentary and then did some light or moderate physical activity.
People who sat around a lot had the most to gain.
Mr Panza said:
“The ‘more is better’ mindset may not be true when it comes to physical activity intensity and subjective well-being.
In fact, an ‘anything is better’ attitude may be more appropriate if your goal is a higher level of subjective well-being.”
People doing vigorous activity did not see increases in their happiness.
This is the reverse of a recent study that found vigorous activity can actually decrease mental well-being.
Dr Beth Taylor, a study author, said:
“Recent studies had suggested a slightly unsettling link between vigorous activity and subjective well-being.
We did not find this in the current study, which is reassuring to individuals who enjoy vigorous activity and may be worried about negative effects.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the Journal of Health Psychology (Panza et al., 2017).