How to feel better fast – new research finds wellbeing is improved significantly by exercise.

Want to feel better fast? A new study has confirmed what Healthistas already know to be true – that staying active with exercise improves our state of wellbeing

Ever have a bit of a buzz throughout the morning after a gym class? Or feel calmer after a walk down the high street on your lunch break? Well, a study has revealed new evidence that there is a 32 per cent divide in level of wellbeing between those who exercise and those who don’t. The research aimed to find out exactly what factors are affecting Brits’ state of happiness, and revealed that almost half of people, 44 per cent, feel their greatest when playing sports or exercising, and have the highest wellbeing scores – 6.92 out of 10 – against a national average wellbeing score of 6.13.

The research was conducted by Central YMCA, surveying 1,000 adults from across the UK. The participants were asked to rate 14 statements to determine how various lifestyle factors impacted overall wellbeing. These factors were: levels of physical activity, experiences of education, mental stimulation, quality of relationships, and financial security and confidence.

What is making you happy

There is a 32 per cent gap in wellbeing scores between those who are active and those who are not

Unsurprisingly, when asked when people feel their wellbeing is highest, people said whilst on holiday, being around family, and socialising. No one can feel unhappy whilst relaxing by a pool in a warm country. But working up a sweat in a spin class also got a high response at 44 per cent. By leading an active lifestyle, wellbeing scores are increased by 13 per cent, whereas an inactive lifestyle reduces the average wellbeing score by 19 per cent. This means that between the most active gym junkie you know, and the least active couch potato, there is a staggering 32 per cent gap in average wellbeing scores.

Wellbeing is improved by exercise, a new study confirms

Although getting into exercise regularly may seem daunting, the study shows that those who have decided to become active in the last three years saw an 8 per cent uplift in their mood, and those whose activity levels slowed down, saw their scores fall by over a fifth.

I can’t say poking at my belly roles after a few weeks chilling out has ever made me feel my best. But when I drag myself out for a run or gym session, I instantly feel much better. It has been proven by science that exercising actually makes you feel happier; for example is acts as a natural medication for depression, boosts self-esteem, and lowers anxiety.

SEE MORE: 8 proven ways exercise makes you happier

Part of having a high wellbeing score also was credited to high levels of mental stimulation, such as learning a new skill. When asked how they could increase levels of mental stimulation, people were hungry for new experiences, such as opportunities for travel, or the chance to learn a new language.

What is making you unhappy


It was found that financial stability affects our state of wellbeing the most, reducing it by 33 per cent if we are extremely worried. This is the same for being surrounded by negative relationships. People’s experience of the education system also seems to have a lasting impact on wellbeing. A positive experience of education increased average wellbeing scores by 10 per cent, while the most negative experience reduces the average by 20 per cent.

Interestingly, across all the 14 wellbeing statements, generally people indicated the least score out of 10 on having energy to spare, feeling relaxed, and feeling good about themselves. See below:

Wellbeing is improved by exercise, a new study confirms, by

Should gyms be used to focus on more than just physical fitness?

YMCA commented that the findings demonstrate how important all the factors are in balance for wellbeing. Notably, they have said that concentrating on just one means of increasing wellbeing (e.g. physical fitness) will be undermined if we don’t place similar emphasis on our relationships or mental stimulation. ‘It poses the thought – should gyms be used to focus on more than just physical fitness? Should we move from a spin class to a TED lecture, in an environment designed to help us meet new people and build positive relationships?’ YMCA said in the report.

MORE: 10 best TED talks that will change your life

Take the test yourself

Print off and fill out the table yourself to reflect on areas you are feeling positively or negatively about, or affecting your enjoyment in life.

Wellbeing is improved by exercise, a new study confirms, by

Read the full report here.

< Back

Also in this week’s magazine

7 ways to keep on top of your fitness routine over Christmas FEATURED

7 ways to keep on top of your healthy eating & fitness routine this Christmas

Worried the festive season will undo all your hard work? Healthista spoke to F45 Head Trainer Sam Gregory who reveals how to keep on top of your healthy eating and fitness routine this Xmas 

7 benefits of taking a ‘brain break’ FEATURE
Mood and Mind

Feeling burned out? 7 benefits of taking a ‘brain break’

If you are feeling burned out, it may be time to take a 'brain break'. Coaching Trainer Liam James Collins, explains the seven benefits of rest

3 ways to speak to your partner about their mental health FEATURED
Mood and Mind

3 ways to speak to your partner about their mental health

Can’t get your other half to open up? Try these 3 mental health tips for a happier, harmonious relationship with your partner

How to eat, exercise and live in sync with your menstrual cycle FEATURED

How to eat, exercise and live in sync with your menstrual cycle

Feel like you're a slave to your menstrual cycle? P.volve trainer Alexia Acebo reveals how you can sync your periods to your workouts, meals & mood 

How To Find Your Inner Confidence And Keep It FEATURED
Mood and Mind

How to boost your self esteem and find your inner confidence

Jim Rees aka the Emotional Intelligence Guru and Author of Vicious Cycle reveals how we can boost our self esteem and find our inner confidence

12 ways to tackle stress and anxiety FEATURED
Expert Chat

12 ways to tackle stress and anxiety

Feeling out of control and unable to cope? Healthista spoke to the experts who reveal 12 strategies that WORK to help tackle stress and anxiety

Latest Video Series


Wellness Weekly

I agree to my personal data being stored and used to receive the Healthista newsletter.


STOP - Healthista needs you!

Tell us what content you want more of...

MenopauseFitness VideosPost-partum careSexual wellness