A new study published in PLOS One that gathered data from users of a mood-tracking app found that even minimal levels of physical activity can improve your happiness. In other words, you don't have to be a triathlete to get a boost in mood, according to the research.
The team, from Cambridge and Essex universities, examined reports from more than 10,000 individuals in the largest-ever smartphone-based study, they said, according to Medical Xpress. The data from the Android app showed that modest levels of physical activity that wouldn’t technically be classified as “exercise” can actually increase a person's reported emotional well-being.
According to Medical Xpress, participants answered a short survey twice a day about their emotional state. They also had data on their physical activity passively gathered from smartphone accelerometers.
"Our data show that happy people are more active in general," the study's senior author Dr. Jason Rentfrow said, according to that publication. "However, our analyses also indicated that periods of physical activity led to increased positive mood, regardless of individuals' baseline happiness.”
“There have been many studies about the positive psychological effects of exercise, but what we've found is that in order to be happier, you don't have to go out and run a marathon – all you've really got to do is periodically engage in slight physical activity throughout the day,” he explained.
Source: Lathia N, Sandstrom GM, Mascolo C, Rentfrow PJ. Happier People Live More Active Lives: Using Smartphones to Link Happiness and Physical Activity. PLOS One. 2016.