mental health conditions. However, less is known about the impact of physical activity on positive mental health conditions, such as happiness and contentment.
Weiyun Chen, PhD, University of Michigan (U-M) associate professor in kinesiology, wanted to know if exercise increased positive mental health in the same way it reduced negative mental health. Chen and his co-author, Zhanjia Zhang, a doctoral student, examined which aspects of physical activity were associated with happiness and which populations were likely to benefit from the effects.
The researchers reviewed 23 studies on happiness and physical activity. The 15 observational studies all showed a positive direct or indirect association between happiness and exercise. The eight interventional studies showed inconsistent results.
“Our findings suggest the physical activity frequency and volume are essential factors in the relationship between physical activity and happiness,” Chen said. “More importantly, even a small change of physical activity makes a difference in happiness.”
And, several studies found that happiness levels were the same whether people exercised 150-300 minutes a week or more than 300 minutes a week.
The review of observational studies found that compared to inactive people, the odds ratio of being happy was 20, 29, and 52 percent higher for people who were insufficiently active, sufficiently active, or very active, respectively.
In the interventional studies, physical activity included aerobic, mixed school activity classes, and stretching and balance exercises for 30 to 75 minutes from one to five times a week for seven weeks to a year. Four of the interventional studies showed a significant difference in change of happiness between the intervention group and control group.
This article was adapted from information provided by U-M.
Image Shutterstock/Jelena Danilovic.