Saturday, February 15, 2020

Running after Happiness

Our Declaration of Independence promises that we can pursue happiness. But, how do you go about pursuing happiness? Well, now a study out of Oxford and Yale has the answer: we can run after it. That is, we can enhance our happiness quotient by undertaking more exercise.

In fact, this study showed, we can gain more happiness by running than we can by amassing a vast fortune. Exercise makes us happier than does more money. 

As always, there are caveats. Exercise in moderation works better than exercise in excess. Surely, if you finish your exercise and return to the homeless shelter, the happiness effect will quickly be diminished. Clearly, if your reduced income makes it impossible for you to provide for your family the extra dose of exercise will be a weak consolation.

In principle, we would like it that people who exercise more also work harder and are more focused. Thus, that their workouts lead to better workplace performance, and to more income.

Anyway, for your edification, here’s the story, from The Hill:

The benefits of routine exercise have been well documented. Blaring headlines tout weight loss, muscle gain, lower cholesterol, improved mental health, sharper focus, stronger bones and a stronger heart, among other improvements.

But a new study has shown that exercise may actually be more important to happiness than wealth.

In a large survey of 1.2 million Americans, researchers from Yale and Oxford universities have shown that people who exercise are markedly happier than people who don’t — even if they have less income.

The study, just published in the leading medical journal Lancet, shows that people who are active report they have 35 days of poor mental health a year. Those who are sedentary report an average of 18 additional down days.

What is remarkable about this study, is that income seems to have less of an impact on happiness than we thought. On average, a sedentary person would have to earn an additional $25,000 to be as happy as a person who exercises.

There is a limit: The research also showed that more and more exercise does not correlate with increasing levels of happiness. It’s a U-shaped curve. Exercising three times a week for 30-60 minutes seems to have the most potent effect on happiness.

Whatever it takes to get people to exercise, we’re for it.


whitney said...

A survey of 1.2 million people. So they have all these questionnaires people answered a myriad of questions and now they can play with statistics. Also, the language they use. Exercise MAY actually... , income SEEMS to have... That's not saying anything. It might also be witches or it could be hair color.

trigger warning said...

I happen to agree that regular, moderate exercise is a good practice. They human body was made to move. Even my propane emergency generator exercises itself once a week to maintain readiness.

However, Whitney is right. This "study" is just a proverbial urn of colored balls ripe for data mining.

As far as exercise -> happiness goes, I can as easily believe that happier people are more likely to exercise. You can't tell which way the train went by looking at the railroad track.

UbuMaccabee said...

I perform three types of vigorous exercise: swimming, barbells, and Krav Maga. I rotate these exercises according to my schedule and my moods.

If I had to choose one, I would choose swimming. It wakes you up immediately, it provides real results in short order, and it involves all of your muscles along with regulated breathing. A vigorous 20-minute swim clears the head, washes away the blues, and makes things that don't matter--not matter. I plan my day on the way home from my early morning swim. When I travel, I choose hotels near lap pools. Swimming in the ocean is divine.

I recommend taking lessons so you can swim at a reasonably high level of technique; it makes a difference from the power that you feel from being able to swim well. I use a pair of underwater earbuds so I can listen to music while I swim; it adds an emotional component to compliment the pleasure of physical exertion.

Lastly, swimmers are pleasing to look at, of whatever sex.

Ubu Manatee