Exercise More, Love Life More
October 26, 2012

Research: More Exercise Means A More Satisfied Life

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

Feeling down in the dumps? Go for a run. Already run every day? Go for a longer run than usual.

That´s what a group of Penn State researchers are saying after conducting a study that examines the psychological benefits of exercise.

"We found that people's satisfaction with life was directly impacted by their daily physical activity," said Jaclyn Maher, Penn State graduate student in kinesiology. "The findings reinforce the idea that physical activity is a health behavior with important consequences for daily well-being and should be considered when developing national policies to enhance satisfaction with life."

In the study, which was published in the journal Health Psychology, the Penn State team focused on young adults, ages 18 to 25, because these are the ages when people tend to experience the most life transitions and uncertainty.

"Emerging adults are going through a lot of changes; they are leaving home for the first time and attending college or starting jobs," said Maher. "As a result, their satisfaction with life can plummet. We decided to focus on emerging adults because they stand to benefit the most from strategies to enhance satisfaction with life."

Study participants were divided into two different groups. The larger first group, of 190 volunteers, was told to enter information into a diary every day for 8 days. The smaller second group, consisting of 63 participants, entered information online every day for 14 days.

Both groups were asked to answer questions about their satisfaction with life, amount of regular physical activity, and self-esteem. To establish a baseline reading, all participants in the first group were assessed at the outset of the study to determine their personal dispositions.

The second group was studied to see if different amounts of physical activity had an effect on participants' increased satisfaction with life. Researchers also measured the group´s relative mental health, fatigue and Body Mass Index.

"Shifts in depression, anxiety and stress would be expected to influence a person's satisfaction with life at any given point in time," said David Conroy, professor of kinesiology at the university. "In addition, fatigue can be a barrier to engaging in physical activity, and a high Body Mass Index associated with being overweight may cause a person to be less satisfied in a variety of ways."

Based on their findings, the researchers confirmed a greater amount of physical activity can positively improve satisfaction with life.

"Based on these findings, we recommend that people exercise a little longer or a little harder than usual as a way to boost satisfaction with life," said Conroy.

The Penn State study coincides with two other new studies that illustrate the benefits of exercise. According to a report in the Journal of Applied Physiology, Taiwanese researchers showed that regular physical activity could mitigate the effects of aging on the animal brain by studying laboratory mice that spent regular time on a moving treadmill.

Another study from University of Georgia researchers showed regular exercise can stimulate the development of new mitochondria within the body´s cells, resulting in increased energy levels over time.