We have discussed here about the positive physical health benefits for people who move more and are less sedentary. Today we share a new study from the University of Cambridge, published in PLOSone. It describes a psychological benefit to moving more—greater happiness.
Physical benefits of moving more
The physical benefits of moving more include: lower risk of diabetes and obesity, lessened risk of certain cancers, and a healthier cardiovascular system. Note that the “moving more” we are talking about is not the moving you are doing during an exercise routine. We are talking about the moving (mostly standing and walking) a person does throughout the day; while at work, or relaxing at home.
How sedentary alters your hormones
Multiple studies have been done on people who don’t move much—people, for example, who might sit for hours in front of a computer screen at work, or watch TV for hours without getting up. The metabolism of these people has been compared with people that move around a lot.
What seems to happen is that long bouts of inactivity alter important hormone systems in the body. Sedentary people show an increase in hormones that signal to their body that whatever excess calories are in their blood should be stored as fat, because their body does not seem to need much energy (they are mostly sitting). And unfortunately, the fat that forms tends to go to the abdomen and mid-section.
The Moving More = Happiness study
The study involved over 12, 838 volunteers. All of them downloaded an Android cellphone app. This app sent a message to the users —at random and variable times during the day—asking them to report how they were feeling at that moment. With an easy to use interface, the user could report if they were feeling angry, anxious, relaxed, sad, happy, and so forth.
The app also measured how much the user had been moving in the 15 minutes before reporting their mood. Besides entering information about their mood, the user also noted if they had been sitting, standing, running, lying down, walking, etc.
The results showed that there was a “modest” but significant association between moving more and happiness. Even though the effect was not huge, the results showed consistently that if a person was moving, they were more likely to be happy at that time. And that over the entire day, the person that moved more was more likely to be happier.
This does not prove that if you move more you will be happier, but the researchers suspect that is true. They are planning further studies, involving encouraging sedentary people to move more and see if their happiness increases.
Avoid sitting in one position for more than 20 or 30 minutes. Frequently throughout the day, take short mini-breaks (could be 15 seconds)—a few steps, maybe stretch. If you can’t get even do that, at least fidget your feet, shift around in your chair or sofa, and move your arms. It helps!
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