Not a history of a lot of physical activity, but a history of a lot of mental well-being makes you physically active now
Having a lifestyle with a lot of exercise now, does not mean that you will still have an active lifestyle in 8 years. A lot of physical activity now says nothing about how much you will exercise in 8 years, Finnish researchers report in Applied Research in Quality of Life. But mental well-being does...
Gerontologists from the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland followed a group of 303 Finns through time. They interviewed the study participants when they were 42 and 8 years later, when they were 50. The Finns determined how much exercise the study participants had, and also their degree of well-being.
Well-being has a psychological, social and emotional dimension for psychologists. Psychological well-being is related to personal growth, a goal in life, self-acceptance an meaningful relationships. Social well-being is related to feelings of social acceptance, actualization, coherence and contribution. Emotional well-being mean that you you experience positive emotions, like overall life satisfaction and happiness.
When the study participants were 42, and 8 years later, physical exercise was related to well-being. Just like you'd expect.
You might expect the study participants reported higer levels of well-being when they were 50, as they had more physical activity 8 years earlier. In other words, you might expect the positive effects of a lifestyle with a lot of physical exercise to accumulate as the years pass. But this was not the case.
It was the other way around, the figure above shows. The more well-being the study participants reported at the age of 42, the more they exercised at the age of 50. "Across time, good mental well-being seems to be a resource promoting engagement in physical activity," write the researchers.
We feel free to interpret the findings of the Finns in a way that's right up our street. If you want to make people physically more active in a sustainable way, you have to choose a modality of exercise that makes them feel better, we deduce. The better this succeeds, the greater the chance that the lifestyle modification will last.
Applied Research in Quality of Life, 2019; DOI: 10.1007/s11482-019-09721-4.
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