150 Minutes of Weekly Exercise Directly Boosts Happiness, New Study Says

A new peer-reviewed study recently published in the Journal of Happiness Studies says that a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise per week can dramatically increase a person's mood and happiness, especially someone who is overweight.

Researchers at the University of Michigan used 23 existing studies to compile "A Systematic Review of the Relationship Between Physical Activity and Happiness." The aim of the study was to confirm and further explore the commonly accepted notion that exercise can ease anxiety and boost happiness.

The main finding was that between 150 and 300 minutes of exercise per week can improve a person's mood. No particular type of exercise was found to be most effective, although aerobics, stretching, balance exercises and mixed activities all proved helpful.

As little as 10 minutes of exercise per week can make a "significant difference" in a person's mood, the study says.

People categorized as "very active" can be up to 52 percent more happy than those who are not, according to the study, while "sufficiently active" people can experience 30 percent more happiness. The study notes that these numbers also hinge upon a person's overall health and social function.

"It could be that people who are happy for all kinds of reasons, such as having good jobs or lots of money, have the means to do more exercise or afford a gym membership," Dr. Sarita Robinson, senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Central Lancashire, told Newsweek in regard to the study. "Also, when we are down or depressed, we are less likely to exercise and have a reduced desire to move in general."

"Despite the consensus that exercise itself makes you happier, we should also consider the possibility that happiness can lead to more opportunities to exercise," she said. "For example, taking part in team sports can increase your social support network, and it is this increase in social support that is improving happiness. Or, if exercise is taking place outside, it could be that the exposure to nature increases happiness."

Robinson told Newsweek that different forms of exercise should be expected to have different effects. Yoga can aid relaxation, for example, while running can release aggression, she said.

"It's important to recognize that exercise is typically part of a comprehensive plan for someone who lives with anxiety or depression and is not a substitute for medical treatment," Ken Duckworth, medical director of the National Alliance of Mental Illness, also told Newsweek. "I encourage people to discuss their exercise program with their primary care doctor and to not to feel bad if they are too symptomatic for exercise. Sometimes that comes later after treatment."

This study follows another, published in January in the American Journal of Psychiatry, that asserted that one hour of weekly exercise can not only curb but entirely prevent depression. In an assessment of 30,000 American adults, non-exercisers were 44 percent more likely to succumb to depression compared to regular exercisers.