RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Exercise has many health benefits and is an important part of an overall healthy lifestyle. Now, a new study published in the Journal of Health Psychology said that even a leisurely walk can boost your mood and sense of well-being.
While a number of studies have shown that physical activity can benefit psychological health, it remains unclear how the intensity of physical activity impacts a patient’s sense of well-being, and this new study addresses this question
1. Tell us about this study
Researchers at the University of Connecticut studied 419 healthy, middle-aged adults as part of the study. The physical activity of each adult was monitored over four days and each person completed a questionnaire on daily exercise routines, psychological well-being, level of depression, and pain levels.
Overall, the team found that people who engaged in physical activity demonstrated greater subjective well-being. However, the benefits of physical activity were found to vary by intensity.
- Light-intensity activity was associated with greater psychological well-being and lower depression
- Moderate-intensity activity was linked to higher psychological well-being and reduced pain severity
- Vigorous-intensity activity – defined as jogging or briskly walking a mile in 13 minute – appeared to have no impact on subjective well-being
Notably, the study results revealed that sedentary adults who increased their exercise levels to light or moderate activity demonstrated the greatest increases in subjective well-being.
2. How does walking help improve mood and well-being?
Exercise like walking promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being.
It also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good. Finally, exercise can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression and other mood disorders.
3. What can we take away from this study?
While further studies are required to gain a better understanding of how exercise intensity influences our moods, the researchers say that their findings indicate that we might not need to push ourselves too hard at the gym in order to boost our well-being. A leisurely walk may be just as effective for improving our psychological health — and this can be done daily at home with family.