Regular Exercise Is Associated With Greater Psychological Well-Being
Most people are aware that regular exercise is a good thing. Health experts recommend regular exercise as a part of a healthy lifestyle. Research has shown that it has many physiological benefits.
Does regular exercise also have psychological benefits? The answer to this question is not very clear. Some studies have found evidence suggesting that exercise can reduce depression, anxiety, and anger and can improve one's mood. Other studies, however, have shown that exercise does not seem to have any positive psychological consequences. To remedy the inconsistencies among these studies, a group of researchers in Sweden and Finland recently conducted a study on the relation between exercise and psychological well-being.
One of the features that places the present study a step above of the rest is that the researchers documented more than whether or not participants exercised. Instead, they looked at how frequently participants engaged in exercise that lasted at least 20 to 30 minutes and was strenuous enough to make them at least slightly lose their breath and perspire. Unlike other studies, the researchers also did not restrict the focus of their investigation to the relation between exercise and negative emotions.
They also examined the relation between exercise and positive emotions.
The participants in the present study consisted of 3,403 people in Finland ranging from 25 to 64 years of age. They responded to several questionnaires and received a medical examination at their local health care center.
Exercise was clearly related to psychological well-being. Participants who exercised at least two to three times a week (the minimum amount of exercise that is generally recommended) experienced less depression, anger, hostility, and stress than did those who exercised less than two times a week or not at all. These same participants also felt a stronger sense of confidence in the belief that life in general is comprehensible, manageable, and meaningful and felt more connected to the groups of people with which they associate (e.g., family, associations).
Basically, the message is that people who exercise regularly not only tend to be healthier physically but healthier psychologically as well. It is important to note, however, that the present study did not actually test whether regular exercise causes psychological benefits but merely whether the two tend to be associated with each other.
Source: Hassmén, P., Koivula, N., & Uutela, A. (2000). Physical exercise and psychological well-being: A population study in Finland. Preventive Medicine, 30, 17-25.