It's official, exercise makes you happier than money

Scientists from Oxford and Yale Universities studied 1.2 million Americans

Regular exercise makes you happier than earning a high salary, new research shows. 
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The benefits of exercise on your mental health have long been touted, but according to scientists from Oxford and Yale, working out can have a bigger impact on your happiness than how much you earn.

Researchers from the two universities collected data on the physical activity and emotional wellbeing of 1.2 million Americans, and have just published their findings in The Lancet Medical Journal.

All participants were asked to answer the following question: “How many times have you felt mentally unwell in the past 30 days, for example, due to stress, depression, or emotional problems?"

1.2 million Americans took part in the study
1.2 million Americans took part in the study

They were also asked to answer questions about their income and how often they exercise, choosing from light options like gardening, walking the dog or housework, to more intense options such as running, cycling and weight lifting.

Researchers found that those who did not work out regularly felt bad for 18 more days a year than those who regularly worked out, having on average 53 bad days as opposed to 35 for active people.

Interestingly, the results also found that those who exercised regularly were just as happy as those who didn’t do regular sports, but earned around $25,000 (Dh92,000) more a year.

Working out three to five times a week can significantly boost mood. Courtesy Les Mills / GFX
Working out three to five times a week can significantly boost mood. Courtesy Les Mills / GFX

While the link between exercise and endorphins has been well documented in the past, this is the first major study to include a comparison with salaries, and shows that you’d need to be earning a substantial amount extra to match the boost that regular exercise gives to your mood.

However, the study also found that too much exercise can begin to have a negative impact on happiness levels, and can add to stress and mental load. The research showed that the mental health of those who exercised for more than three hours each day suffered more than those who were not active.

Scientists added that the optimum time to work out was a 30 to 60 minute session three to five times a week, and that social or team sports did more to boost happiness levels.