Need some extra gusto to push through the end of the day? A new study found suggests people who get at least 15 minutes of physical activity during the day are more likely to act more enthusiastic or excited than those who are less active.
Nearly 200 students at Penn State University kept a daily diary for eight days, noting any physical activity of 15 minutes or more, the amount and quality of their sleep, and overall mental state. Researchers found that active people experienced positive, high-energy emotions (like enthusiasm! and excitement!) more often than their less active peers.
Because the study was solely observational and didn’t ask participants to alter their lifestyles, lead study author Amanda Hyde suggests the findings reflect a natural and ongoing phenomenon, rather than a short-lived effect. More good news: Researchers propose once people experience this feel-good effect from a workout, they may be more encouraged to keep working out for the long haul.
Scientists have discovered habitual activity can improve mood, but this study addresses those who need a quick fix — the subjects' positive feelings were especially evident on the same days they exercised Don't worry, be active: positive affect and habitual physical activity. Pasco, J.A., Jacka, F.N., Williams, L.J. et al. Barwon Epidemiology and Biostatistics Unit, School of Medicine, Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria 3220, Australia. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 2011 Dec;45(12):1047-52. Epub 2011 Nov 7.. So even if the physical results don’t show right away from all that hard work at the gym, the emotional results might. And while exercise has been found to generally make us happier, this study reveals how excitement specifically is associated with physical activity. (How, er, exciting!) The association between exercise participation and well-being: a co-twin study. Stubbe, J.H., de Moor, M.H., Boomsma, Dl., et al. Department of Biological Psychology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Preventative Medicine, 2007 Feb;44(2):148-52. Epub 2006 Oct 23..
Hyde notes the study did not test what caused the connection between exercise and enthusiasm, but other research has linked physical activity and levels of norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin in the brain — which can lead to these emotions Exercise and brain neurotransmission. Meeusen, R., De Meirleir, K. Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Dept Human Physiology and Sportsmedicine, Laarbeeklaan, Belgium. Sports Medicine, 1995 Sep;20(3):160-88. How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs. Young, S.N. Editor-in-chief, Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, and Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montréal, Que. Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, 2007 November; 32(6): 394–399. Effect of enhanced voluntary physical exercise on brain levels of monoamines in Huntington disease mice. Renoir, T., Chevarin, C., Lanfumey, L, et al. Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Neural Plasticity Group, Florey Neuroscience Institutes, Melbourne Brain Centre, University of Melbourne, Australia. PLoS Currents, 2011 Nov 8;3:RRN1281.. So while this study was small and short, there’s little risk in getting in some good ol’ exercise to see how it affects that inner-zest. If anything, it’ll help us tone up, keep that heart healthy, and could even make us high. So it’s time to get pumping… and pumped.