Running Is Cheaper Than Therapy

Have you seen this bumper sticker? If your end goal is happiness, new research proves it true. For those of us who work out, this is hardly groundbreaking news. Feeling happier after a workout is usually the reason we work out in the first place. Numerous studies have shown that physical activity lowers the rate of depression and anxiety, but a new review published in The Journal of Happiness Studies strongly links exercise to happiness. In other words, exercise doesn’t just bring us back to zero when we’re in a funk, it boosts us into the positive range, an area labeled “happiness.”

Researchers found the type of exercise didn’t matter – some participants walked, others jogged or did yoga. Wieyun Chen, a professor of kinesiology at the University of Michigan and one of the scientists who wrote the review, says that “every one of the observational studies showed a beneficial relationship between being physically active and being happy.” People who exercised for 30 minutes a day were about 30 percent happier than those who didn’t. While more exercise does lead to greater happiness, the researchers found that a little goes a long way – participants who only exercised a couple times a week or for as little as 10 minutes a day still felt happier than those who didn’t exercise at all.

Moving forward, researchers need to explore why exercise links directly to happiness. Does movement create new brain cells or introduce more chemicals that make us feel good? Or do we feel happy because of the social factors exercise creates, such as checking out the cuties at the gym, making new friends, walking around and people-watching or absorbing a bit of sunlight and vitamin D. So far, researchers don’t have data to connect the reasons behind this elevated mood. For most of us, who cares anyway! Grab a colleague and go for a walk today at lunch or skip around the block. You’ll feel better after.

Dr. H.