Exercise makes people happier than money, study shows

John Hines 01.07.2021

An extensive research study, published by The Lancet in September of 2018 (1) and involving 1.2 million Americans, showed that people who exercise regularly have significantly fewer "bad self-reported mental health days" in the year than people who don't. In other words, people who exercise are happier. And they found this to be universally true, regardless of age, gender, and just about every other factor, including income bracket. The study showed that you'd have to earn an additional $25,000 a year or more to get the same mental health boost that regular exercise provides.

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING MIGHT NOT BE SO GOOD

The research also revealed that exercising more isn't always better when it comes to mood enhancement. If you graphed it, the study's results would be bell-shaped, with people who exercise too little or too much receiving considerably less of the "happiness effect." 

The "sweet spot" for achieving optimal mental health benefits turns out to be about 45 minutes of exercise a day, three to five days a week, for a total of 150 to 250 minutes.

Interestingly, The National Institute of Health and other major medical institutions have, for years, recommended that Americans get 150 to 250 minutes of exercise per week to maintain their fitness and health. So when psychological research and renowned health institutions arrive at the same conclusions about the amount of exercise that benefits us most, the numbers become even more compelling. 

EVEN A LITTLE BIT HELPS

Related research published in the Journal of Happiness Studies (2) showed that even a minimal amount of exercise could boost our mental state. Remarkably, exercising just 10 minutes a week gave people a brighter outlook on life when compared to people who didn't exercise at all. "The randomized controlled trials mostly focused on older adults and cancer survivors, and suggested that both aerobic exercise and stretching/balancing exercise were effective in improving happiness."

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1. Lancet Psychiatry. 2018 Sep;5(9):739-746.

2. Journal of Happiness Studies. 2019 April 20(9475)

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