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Life Satisfaction

The Secret to Happiness? A Few Extra Minutes of Exercise Each Day

posted 12:11 AM EST, Thu November 01, 2012

Penn State researchers say you can improve your sense of well-being and life satisfaction by exercising just a little bit harder or for just a little bit longer than you normally do.

Would you invest a few more sweaty minutes of exercise each day for a pay-off of substantially improved life satisfaction?

Scientists say that you have more control over your well-being than you probably realize, and that one of the best ways to enhance your sense of life satisfaction is by exercising for a few extra minutes each day.

The Experiment

Penn State University researchers recruited 190, 18-25 year old study subjects to participate in a life satisfaction experiment.

For 8 to 14 days, study subjects answered questions on a daily basis about life satisfaction at the moment, recent physical activity, self esteem and other variables.

The Results

After controlling for variables that could influence life satisfaction, such as depression, anxiety, stress, a high body mass index and fatigue, the research team found that exercise was significantly correlated to improved life satisfaction.

Subjects reported feeling greater life satisfaction on days with more physical activity and feeling less satisfied on more sedentary days.

Subjects reported the largest bump in life satisfaction on days when they exercised harder or for a few minutes longer than normal.


The study authors say governments looking to boost macro-level mental health need to consider public health polices which encourage physical activity - and at the individual level, anyone wanting to feel a bit better about life ought to try sweating it out for a few extra minutes each day.

Read the full research findings in Health Psychology.

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Story Highlights
  • Happiness: A few extra minutes of exercise each day may be all you need to feel greater life satisfaction
  • Public Health Opportunities: Researchers say governments could enhance macro level mental health through polices which encouraged more physical activity
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