A new study claims that exercise can actually boost one's mood. It's long been believed that moderate physical activity can lower feelings of stress anxiety, and even ameliorate symptoms of depression, but this new study now suggests that it can make someone happy.
Exercise Makes You Happy
University of Michigan researchers discovered that as little as 10 minutes of exercise each week can make a "significant difference" in a person's mood. Furthermore, spending between 150 to 300 minutes for physical activity boosted a person's happiness as much as those who worked out even more.
The study, published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, looked at 23 previously published studies involving various data on people. The researchers conclude that people who are very active were 52 percent more likely to be happy, with the number dropping to 30 percent for those who are merely "sufficiently active," and 20 percent for the "insufficiently active."
Is It Really Exercise, Though?
Even still, it should be noted that studies on happiness and exercise are very tricky to pull conclusions out of, if only for the fact that it's difficult to establish a direct link between being happy and staying physically active. Why? Well, for starters, there are many factors that can cause a person to feel joy, according to Sarita Robinson of the University of Central Lancashire. Factors that affect one's happiness include job security, financial status, or at least having enough funds to maintain a gym membership.
What's more, people are less likely to exercise or engage in physically taxing activities if they're feeling down or depressed. This complicates the relationship between happiness and exercise even further, because then it's hard to determine if people are happy because they exercise, or if people exercise because they want to be happy. There's also the elements in between exercise and happiness than remain unexplored.
"For example, taking part in team sports can increase your social support network, and it is this increase in social support that is improving happiness," according to Robinson. Or, if a person jogs around their neighborhood, it could be that being outside with nature is the thing that causes happiness, not necessarily the physical activity.
The researchers admit the limitations of their study, saying:
"[D]ue to the limited number of randomized controlled trials, we cannot draw firm conclusions regarding the causal relationship between physical activity and happiness."
They also said that further research will lead to more insights about the mechanisms of how physical activity influences happiness, and also to determine the adequate amount of exercise and type of physical activity that'll yield boosts in overall mood.