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The mood-boosting benefits of walking

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It isn't necessary to spend hours at the gym or work up a sweat to improve your mood, researchers claim. Academics from the University of Connecticut have discovered that people who lead a sedentary lifestyle by spending large amounts of time sitting, can lift their spirits and reduce the risk of depression simply by moving and doing some form of exercise.

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The study analysed over 400 generally healthy middle-aged adults who wore accelerometers on their hips to track physical activity over four days. Participants also completed a series of questionnaires asking them to describe their daily exercise habits, psychological wellbeing and daily activities, with it discovered that exercise in general improved people's sense of health.

woman walking© Photo: iStock

Walking can lift the spirits and give an improved sense of health

"While light and moderate physical activity clearly made some people feel better about themselves, when it came to vigorous activity, the results were neutral," the researchers reported. "There was no positive or negative association found between high intensity physical activity and subjective wellbeing."

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In response to the results, study lead author Gregory Panza stated that he hopes the finding helps people realise that performing some level of light or moderate physical activity can improve subjective wellbeing. He notes that light physical activity is the equivalent of taking a leisurely walk around with no noticeable increase in breathing, heart rate, or sweating, while moderate intensity activity is equivalent to walking a 15 to 20-minute mile with an increase in breathing, heart rate, and sweating, yet still being able to carry on a conversation.

"What is even more promising for the physically inactive person is that they do not need to exercise vigorously to see these improvements," Panza continued. "Instead, our results indicate you will get the best 'bang for your buck' with light or moderate intensity physical activity." The full study has been published in the Journal of Health Psychology.

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