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.
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:
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.
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.
Read the full report here.
Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.