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Leisurely Walk Can Boost Psychological Wellbeing

Sedentary adults had the lowest levels of subjective wellbeing and the highest levels of depression.Sedentary adults had the lowest levels of subjective wellbeing and the highest levels of depression.

Regular exercise is considered key for improving and maintaining physical health. When it comes to psychological health, however, new research suggests that you do not need to hit the gym in order to reap the rewards.

Researchers from the University of Connecticut (UConn) in Mansfield found that simply going for a leisurely walk can improve mood and boost subjective well-being, particularly for adults who are normally sedentary.

Lead study author Gregory Panza, of the Department of Kinesiology at UConn, and colleagues recently reported their findings in the Journal of Health Psychology, medicalnewstoday.com reported.

While a number of studies have shown that physical activity can benefit psychological health, Panza and team note that it remains unclear how the intensity of physical activity impacts subjective wellbeing, defined as a person’s own evaluation of their lives.

Researchers decided to investigate this association further with their new study, which included 419 healthy, middle-aged adults.

The physical activity of each adult was monitored over 4 days using accelerometers, which participants wore on their waist.

Additionally, subjects completed questionnaires detailing their daily exercise routines, psychological well-being, level of depression, whether they experienced pain and its severity, as well as the extent to which pain disrupted their day-to-day activities.

Researchers found that adults who were sedentary had the lowest levels of subjective well-being and the highest levels of depression, which indicates that lack of physical activity is detrimental to psychological health.

  Greater Subjective Wellbeing

Overall, the team found that people who engaged in physical activity demonstrated greater subjective wellbeing. However, the benefits of physical activity were found to vary by intensity.

Light-intensity activity, for example, was associated with greater psychological wellbeing and lower depression, while moderate-intensity activity was linked to higher psychological wellbeing and reduced pain severity.

Light-intensity activity was defined by the study as a leisurely walk that does not noticeably raise heart rate, breathing, or sweating. Moderate-intensity activity was defined as walking a mile in 15 to 20 minutes, with a slight increase in heart rate, breathing, and sweating.

Notably, the study results revealed that sedentary adults who increased their exercise levels to light or moderate activity demonstrated the greatest increases in subjective wellbeing.

“Recent studies had suggested a slightly unsettling link between vigorous activity and subjective wellbeing,” says study co-author Beth Taylor, associate professor of kinesiology at UConn. “We did not find this in the current study, which is reassuring to individuals who enjoy vigorous activity and may be worried about negative effects.”

“The ‘more is better’ mindset may not be true when it comes to physical activity intensity and subjective wellbeing. In fact, an ‘anything is better’ attitude may be more appropriate if your goal is a higher level of subjective wellbeing.

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