Get Happy, Get Healthy, Get Moving

A new study in PLoS One points once again to a simple way to get happy and get healthy. Find joy in an active life.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge wrote a smartphone app. More than 10,000 people downloaded and used it to keep track of their moods and lifestyle choices. Accelerometers in the phones collected objective data on movement. People agreed up front that their data could be used for academic research.

The picture that emerged was unmistakeable. The most active people were the happiest people. And the happiest moments came when people were moving. These findings held up in multiple analyses with striking consistency. It didn’t matter if the data on movement came from self-reports or from a phone’s accelerometer. Happiness came along with movement.

And here’s the thing. It isn’t just exercise that seems to lift spirits. It’s any movement, even just standing, walking, or fidgeting.

Of course, these data look at an association between mood and movement. It’s not a controlled experiment. But they build upon an extensive understanding of the benefits of physical activity. Exercise provides immediate benefits. It helps people think better, work more creatively, and enjoy a better mood. It helps a person live longer and healthier.

Getting to the gym might sometimes be hard. But it’s not hard to get up and move. And it’s especially easy to see the benefits.

Click here for the study in PLoS One and here for more from the New York Times. And if you’re a fan of cycling (we are) you might want to check out this resource on its health benefits.

Happy, photograph © Greg Westfall / flickr

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January 29, 2017