Childhood Joy

Small Bits of Exercise for a Boost in Health and Happiness

This isn’t too mysterious. A number of recent studies are making it ever more clear that even small bits of exercise can give you a boost – in health and happiness. It doesn’t take long bouts of intense activity.

From the Journal of Happiness Studies

You gotta love this journal. Peer-reviewed and devoted to the scientific understanding of subjective well-being, it seems like a perfect place for a systematic review of the effects of exercise on happiness. Zhanjia Zhang and Weiyun Chen sifted through 1,142 records of studies between 1980 and 2017. They focused on 15 observational studies and eight intervention studies.

They found a consistent, positive relationship between physical activity and happiness. Those results suggested that as little as 10 minutes of exercise a week might make a difference. But the randomized, controlled trials were focused on older adults and cancer survivors. So Zhang and Chen were reluctant to make broad and firm conclusions about cause and effect. We need more research, they said.

However, when we shift the focus to depression, it’s pretty clear that physical activity can protect a person from the onset of depression. It’s a slightly different, but related question that Felipe Schuch and colleagues addressed in a new meta-analysis.

Short Bits of Exercise Can Add Up for Longevity

The value of physical activity for a longer life and better health is already clear. But more recently, Pedro Saint‐Maurice and colleagues provided new evidence that long bouts of activity are not the only way to get these benefits.

Using NHANES data, they found bouts of five to ten minutes can add up to a similar mortality benefit that longer bouts provide. They found that it’s the total amount of activity – not the duration of individual bouts – that matters. Until now, guidelines recommend exercised bouts of more than ten minute. However, that’s a real problem for many people. So this observation is good news for them.

We will always have more questions about exercise, health, and happiness. One thing is clear, getting up and getting active – even if you have only a few minutes – can offer real benefits. Don’t wait. Do it now.

Click here for the happiness study, here for the depression study, and here for the mortality study. For more perspective on these studies, click  here and here.

Childhood Joy, photograph © Tuncay / flickr

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May 4, 2018