Extra Activity, Extra Satisfaction

Exercise boosts satisfaction among young adults on day of the activity

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) When life's got you down and things aren't going well, maybe lack of exercise is to blame. Young adults are more satisfied and happy with life on days they exercise. Two new research studies have found out why.

The authors said in a press release, "The research 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."

They found on the days people are more active than usual, they also reported being more satisfied. On average, participants were moderately satisfied with life.

"Get active for 30 minutes a day."

The studies, led by Jaclyn Maher, a graduate student in the kinesiology department at Penn State University, included 253 young adults between 18- and 25-years-old. In their report, the authors say people's esteem seems to drop the most during early adulthood.

Researchers aimed to find whether one's satisfaction with life is linked with their self-esteem and their level of physical activity.

In the first study, 190 participants who were primarily white females in their first or second year of college kept a daily diary on their physical activity and how satisfied they felt with life for eight days.

All were also surveyed on their personality and self-esteem using a 5-point scale.

During the second study, 63 participants answered questions online for two weeks to find out whether exercise itself affects satisfaction levels.

About two-thirds of these participants were women. More than 85 percent were white and enrolled in upper-level classes at a university and completed the study as a class project.

Researchers also kept track of participants' gender, body mass index and mental health, including stress, fatigue, anxiety and depression.

"We found that people's satisfaction with life was directly impacted by their daily physical activity," Maher said in a press release.

Physical activity was equal to about two moderate intensity workouts of more than 10 minutes per day on average.

Higher levels of satisfaction were moderately to strongly linked with lower levels fatigue, anxiety, stress and depression.

"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 and co-author, in a press release.

"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."

The higher levels of self-esteem overall was linked with higher levels of satisfaction on average.

People's personality differences were not significantly related to people's satisfaction level.

The authors note the group of people they studied was not very diverse and having to rely on their self-reports may have skewed results, especially in accounting how much physical activity was done.

They also note the information was collected only at the end of the day and the actual causes of satisfaction need to be studied further.

The study, which was funded by the National Institute of Aging at the National Institutes of Health, was published online this week in Health Psychology

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Review Date: 
October 30, 2012
Last Updated:
November 4, 2012