It's not exactly a secret that regular exercise can improve your mood and lead to greater happiness — and as it turns out, you might not even need to get whole lot of it to reap some of the benefits. A recent study published in PLOS One suggests that small amounts exercise can improve your mood in a big way, no marathons required. Many of us could use a lift right now, no matter how small, so this study might offer a simple way to boost your mood.
For the study, researchers tracked over 10,000 study participants who downloaded an app from Google app store onto their Android phones. Unlike standard fitness apps, this one had an additional element: Along with tracking your exercise, it would ask users to rate their happiness level at any given moment.
In order to track their happiness correlation with their exercise, the app did two things: First, it recorded their exercise (although of course only if the user actually had their phone on them when they were working out). Second, after several weeks of use, the app asked users if they'd been walking, sitting, standing, running, or other activity in the last 15 minutes.
The overwhelming result? Literally almost any degree of physical activity, including light walking, performed within the previous 15 minutes seemed to improve user's moods. In fact, most people hadn't been doing an intense workout or training for a triathlon, but instead, simply doing some mild walking.
These findings are important for a number of reasons. First of all, in a culture that can be obsessive about what people look like, it's empowering to know that moving your body doesn't have to be about changing your body at all. It can be about improving your own happiness and mental health, even if there is not necessarily a physical result.
Second, these results are especially important when you consider how many people put self-care on the back burner until they realize they're already running on empty and are totally burnt out. Getting a little bit of light exercise on a regular basis doesn't need a goal beyond just clearing your head and bumping your mood.
Light exercise, like walking around your neighborhood, can also be a great way to connect with your community, catch up with friends, or break up an evening of Netflix with your partner. Most importantly, light exercise can make you happier, and you definitely deserve that.