Those who spend a lot of time sitting tend to be the least happiest, but the good news is that they do not even have to slog at the gym to lift their spirits. Simply getting out of the chair and moving around should be enough, according to a new study.
“We hope this research helps people realise the important public health message that simply going from doing no physical activity to performing some physical activity can improve their subjective well-being,” said the study’s lead author Gregory Panza from University of Connecticut in the US.
“What is even more promising for the physically inactive person is that they do not need to exercise vigorously to see these improvements,” Panza said. “Instead, our results indicate you will get the best ‘bang for your buck’ with light or moderate intensity physical activity,” Panza added.
For those keeping score, light physical activity is the equivalent of taking a leisurely walk around the mall with no noticeable increase in breathing, heart rate, or sweating, says Distinguished Kinesiology Professor Linda Pescatello, senior researcher on the project.
Moderate intensity activity is equivalent to walking a 15-20-minute mile with an increase in breathing, heart rate, and sweating, yet still being able to carry on a conversation. Vigorous activity is equivalent to a very brisk walk or jogging a 13-minute mile with a very noticeable increase in breathing, heart rate, and sweating to the point of being unable to maintain a conversation.
The study looked at 419 generally healthy middle-aged adults who wore accelerometers on their hips to track physical activity over four days. People who reported higher levels of sedentary behaviour also reported lower levels of subjective well-being, meaning those who sat around a lot were the least happiest, according to the study published in the Journal of Health Psychology.
People who led sedentary lives and engaged in light or moderate physical activity showed the greatest improvement in overall sense of well-being, the study said.
“The ‘more is better’ mindset may not be true when it comes to physical activity intensity and subjective well-being,” Panza said. “In fact, an ‘anything is better’ attitude may be more appropriate if your goal is a higher level of subjective well-being,” he added.