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In Just 15 Minutes, Your Future Will Seem Brighter

Mark Luckasavage

Exercise really does help improve your mood and self-confidence, and it doesn’t take as much time or effort as you might think!


Researchers with the University of Connecticut note that those who live a sedentary life are more apt to experience a lower feeling of well-being. However, just a few minutes of light or moderate exercise can change that.

Senior researcher Professor Linda Pescatello and team tracked the activity of 419 generally healthy middle-aged adults. The participants also filled out questionnaires on psychological well-being, depression level, pain, and ability to complete activities of daily living.

They found that those who were most sedentary reported being the least happy. But those who participated in daily activity had higher levels of psychological well-being and lower levels of depression as well as lower levels of pain severity.

The best type of activity for mood elevation was not HIIT (high intensity training) – but rather light to moderate activity. Light activity is the equivalent of taking a leisurely walk (no noticeable increase in either breathing or heart rate) while moderate activity is about a 15 to 20 minute mile and a noticeable increase in breathing and heart rate.

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"We hope this research helps people realize the important public health message that simply going from doing no physical activity to performing some physical activity can improve their subjective well-being," says Gregory Panza, a graduate student in the Department of Kinesiology and the study's lead author.

Exercise may help improve mood and outlook in a couple of different ways. Biochemically, exercise increases serotonin, the neurotransmitter targeted by antidepressants. Psychologically, exercise may boost a depressed person’s outlook by helping him or her return to meaningful activity and providing a sense of accomplishment. Exercise may also help one better respond to stress.

Journal Reference:
Gregory A Panza, Beth A Taylor, Paul D Thompson, C Michael White, Linda S Pescatello. Physical activity intensity and subjective well-being in healthy adults. Journal of Health Psychology, 2017; 135910531769158 DOI: 10.1177/1359105317691589

Additional Resource:
American Psychological Association

Photo Credit:
By Tyrone Smith - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons