Exercise: not just good for keeping your weight down

If you’ve recently started a new exercise regime to help manage your weight or simply to be fitter in general, there may be an added advantage to making all that physical effort.

According to a survey by health and wellbeing charity Central YMCA, people who lead a more active lifestyle are the happiest in society and enjoy a better overall state of wellbeing than those who are less physically active.

“These results confirm something we at Central YMCA have been aware of for a long time – physical activity greatly impacts our overall wellbeing,” says Rosi Prescott, the charity’s chief executive.

“Our organisation works with people every day to help them lead more active lifestyles so we see first hand how increases in physical activity can impact your mood, wellbeing and ultimately happiness. So, we’re not surprised that the research has shown those who are more active typically enjoy wellbeing scores that are up to a third better than those who are less active.”

Nationwide study

The charity surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults from across the UK and asked them to rate statements to find out what effect various lifestyle factors – including physical activity, education, mental stimulation and relationships – had on their wellbeing.

According to the survey, being active boosts average wellbeing scores by 13 percent. But those who were the least active had wellbeing scores that were 19 percent lower than average. The survey also suggests 44 percent of people believe their wellbeing is at its highest when they’re playing a sport or exercising.

There’s never been a better time to look at whether or not you’re doing enough exercise and being physically active in your daily life, says Rosi. “Even something as simple as a brisk 15-minute walk can make a world of difference,” she says.

“But don’t be fooled into thinking physical activity alone is the answer to better wellbeing. We need to ensure we have a good mix of exercise, mental stimulation and positive relationships in our lives if we want to truly reach our highest sense of wellbeing and self-satisfaction.”

It’s not the first time exercise has been linked with happiness and wellbeing. Previous research from the Mental Health Foundation, for example, found that being physically active on a regular basis increases self-esteem, can help reduce stress and anxiety, and may help prevent the development of mental health problems.

Exercise is also widely recommended as a method of boosting mood, and according to the NHS it’s especially useful for people with mild to moderate depression. To stay healthy, aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity – such as cycling or brisk walking – every week (speak to your GP before starting to exercise if you have a medical condition or if you haven’t been very active lately).

Your local Careway pharmacist can give you lots of tips on staying fit as well as any advice you may need on treating sore muscles. Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.