People who are more physically active report greater levels of excitement and enthusiasm compared to people who are less physically active, according to a new study from Penn State.

The study also found on days people are more physically active than usual, they reported feelings of excitement and enthusiasm.

“You don’t have to be the fittest person who is exercising every day to receive the feel-good benefits of exercise,” said David Conroy, Penn State kinesiology professor, in a statement. “It’s a matter of taking it one day at a time, of trying to get your activity in, and then there’s this feel-good reward afterwards.”

The research team asked 190 college students to keep daily diaries of their lived experiences, including free-time, physical activity, sleep quantity and quality, as well as their mental states, including perceived stress and feeling states.

Subjects were then told to document only those episodes of physical activity that happened for at least 15 minutes and to note whether the physical activity was mild, moderate, or vigorous. The participants then gave back the diaries to researchers at the close of each day for a period of eight days.

Then the subjects were separated by four different “feeling states”, pleasant-activated feelings exemplified by excitement and enthusiasm, pleasant-deactivated feelings exemplified by satisfaction and relaxation, unpleasant-activated feelings exemplified by anxiety and anger, and unpleasant-deactivated feelings exemplified by depression and sadness.

“We found that people who are more physically active have more pleasant-activated feelings than people who are less active, and we also found that people have more pleasant-activated feelings on days when they are more physically active than usual,” said Amanda Hyde, graduate student and one of the study’s researchers.

“Our results suggest that not only are there chronic benefits of physical activity, but there are discrete as well. Doing more exercise than you typically do can give you a burst of pleasant-activated feelings, such as as quality of sleep,” she concluded.

The study has been published in the current issue of the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology.

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