Exercise more effective than money when it comes to happiness

As the saying goes, money can’t buy you happiness. But we still tend to get preoccupied by our bank balances, when what we should actually be doing is spending more time being active. Why? Because new research has shown that exercise is worth way more than dollars when it comes to putting a smile on your face.

The study by researchers at Yale and Oxford looked at the physical habits and mental state of over 1.2 million Americans.

The following question was posed to the participants: “How many times have you felt mentally unwell in the past 30 days, for example, due to stress, depression, or emotional problems?”

They were also asked about their financial situation and their exercise habits taking into account 75 different types of activity including taking care of the kids, moving the lawn and doing housework as well as the more traditional weight-lifting, running and cycling.

On average, participants experienced 3.4 days of poor mental health each month. Those who exercised regularly tended to feel bad for 35 days a year, on average 18 days less than the nonactive participants – a hefty difference of 43.2%.

On top of that, the researchers discovered that physically active people felt just as good as those who didn’t do sports but raked in around $25,000 more a year.

“Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and there is an urgent need to find ways to improve mental health through population health campaigns,” study author Dr Adam Chekroud, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Yale University, and Chief Scientist at Spring Health said.

“Exercise is associated with a lower mental health burden across people no matter their age, race, gender, household income and education level. Excitingly, the specifics of the regime, like the type, duration, and frequency, played an important role in this association. We are now using this to try and personalise exercise recommendations, and match people with a specific exercise regime that helps improve their mental health.”

But don’t go too far. If you overdo it, you can end up damaging your wellbeing, the study found. It highlighted three to five 30 to 60 minute training sessions per week as the ideal scenario. More than that saw the overall happiness of participants dwindle to levels lower than those of people who were inactive.

Your choice of sport also plays a role, with social activities such as team sports considered more beneficial. Cycling, aerobics and gym exercise were also found to have a particularly positive effect.

“Previously, people have believed that the more exercise you do, the better your mental health, but our study suggests that this is not the case. Doing exercise more than 23 times a month, or exercising for longer than 90 minute sessions is associated with worse mental health,” Dr Chekroud continued.

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