Mental Health Benefits of Movement

Keep It Moving — Mental Health Benefits of Movement

We often report on the importance of movement (for example here, here, and here.) Often, this discussion focuses on the physical health benefits. Now, a new study looks at the mental health benefits of movement, including at the workplace.

The report published in PLoS One is titled “Happier People Live More Active Lives: Using Smartphones to Link Happiness and Physical Activity.” It notes what we’ve reported: “Physical activity, both exercise and non-exercise, has far-reaching benefits to physical health.”

This study took a different direction, focusing on mental health: “Although exercise has also been linked to psychological health (e.g., happiness), little research has examined physical activity more broadly, taking into account non-exercise activity as well as exercise. We examined the relationship between physical activity (measured broadly) and happiness using a smartphone application.”

By collecting the data, researchers could measure the benefits of exercise on mental well-being. The results demonstrate yet another reason that one should not sit at the desk all day at work: “The findings reveal that individuals who are more physically active are happier. Further, individuals are happier in the moments when they are more physically active.”

Interestingly, the results were consistent regardless of the ways the researchers collected the data: “These results emerged when assessing activity subjectively, via self-report, or objectively, via participants’ smartphone accelerometers.”

The New York Times reports that “In general, the results suggest that ‘people who are generally more active are generally happier and, in the moments when people are more active, they are happier,’ says Gillian Sandstrom, a study co-author who was a postdoctoral researcher at Cambridge and is now a lecturer in psychology at the University of Essex.

As the study concludes: “Poor health has significant individual and societal costs. The current project showed that inactivity, which has been linked to poor physical health, is also linked to poor psychological health…┬áThe current research reveals the important connection between physical and psychological processes, indicating that even slight changes in one has consequences for the other.”