Physical activity increases feelings of well-being
2012-02-21 19:40:39 by Russell Phillips
[caption id="attachment_1048" align="alignright" width="300" caption="People who were more physically active had higher levels of excitement and enthusiasm than those who were less physically active."][/caption]
Have you ever experienced the feel-good reward after going to the gym, doing yoga, or running? While it may sound like common sense to some, others want to see some real data to support that claim. You can now back it up with some rigorous academic research. Physically active people report higher levels of excitement and enthusiasm according to a recent Penn State study.
Researchers asked 190 undergraduates to keep a daily diary of activity, sleep, and feeling state. Subject recorded activity with a duration of 15 minutes or more, and whether it was mild, moderate or vigorous. Feeling states were divided into four basic categories that can be simplified to: excitement, relaxation, anxiety, and sadness.
After ruling out things like sleep quality, day of the week, and carry-over effects of activity from the previous day, they found an association between activity levels and excitement, but no association between activity levels and relaxation, anxiety or sadness. Those who were more physically active had higher levels of excitement and enthusiasm than those who were less physically active. The results were published in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology.
In a press release about the study results, author David Conroy, professor of kinesthesiology, said, "When people set New Year's resolutions, they set them up to include the entire upcoming year, but that can be really overwhelming. Taking it one day at a time and savoring that feel-good effect at the end of the day might be one step to break it down and get those daily rewards for activity. Doing this could help people be a little more encouraged to stay active and keep up the program they started."
While most previous studies looked at pleasant or unpleasant feelings, the current study broke down the pleasant feelings into activated (excited) or deactivated (relaxed). Their results suggest that not only are there long-term health benefits of physical activity, but also short-term benefits in the form of a burst of feel-good energy and excitement.
"You don't have to be the fittest person who is exercising every day to receive the feel-good benefits of exercise," said Conroy. "It's a matter of taking it one day at a time, of trying to get your activity in, and then there's this feel-good reward afterwards."