Leisurely walk can banish the blues better than a jog

A simple walk in the park could improve your mood
A simple walk in the park could improve your mood

A leisurely walk around the office is as good as jogging in banishing the blues in middle aged desk bound workers, a study found.

Just getting out of the chair and doing some light exercise lifted a person's mood as good as vigorous exercise such as a jog or a brisk walk.

Those with sedentary lives saw a greater the greatest improvement in overall sense of well-being than gym bunnies pounding the treadmills.

University of Connecticut researchers found physical activity improved people's sense of well-being, but different intensities of physical activity were more beneficial to some people than others.

While light and moderate physical activity clearly made some people feel better about themselves, when it came to vigorous activity, the results were neutral.

There was no positive or negative association found between high intensity physical activity and subjective well-being.

Light physical activity as the equivalent of taking a leisurely walk with no noticeable increase in breathing, heart rate, or sweating.

Moderate intensity activity is equivalent to walking a 15-20-minute mile with an increase in breathing, heart rate, and sweating, yet still being able to carry on a conversation.

Vigorous activity is equivalent to a very brisk walk, or jogging a 13-minute mile with a very noticeable increase in breathing, heart rate, and sweating to the point of being unable to maintain a conversation.

The study looked at 419 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 well-being and pain severity.

Lead author Gregory Panza, a graduate student in UConn's Department of Kinesiology, said: "The 'more is better' mindset may not be true when it comes to physical activity intensity and subjective well-being.

"In fact, an 'anything is better' attitude may be more appropriate if your goal is a higher level of subjective well-being.

"We hope this research helps people realize the important public health message that simply going from doing no physical activity to performing some physical activity can improve their subjective well-being.

"What is even more promising for the physically inactive person is that they do not need to exercise vigorously to see these improvements.

"Instead, our results indicate you will get the best 'bang for your buck' with light or moderate intensity physical activity."

Beth Taylor, associate professor of kinesiology, added: "Recent studies had suggested a slightly unsettling link between vigorous activity and subjective well-being.

"We did not find this in the current study, which is reassuring to individuals who enjoy vigorous activity and may be worried about negative effects.

"If it doesn't make us feel good, we don't want to do it.

"Establishing the link between different types, doses, and intensities of physical activity on well-being is a very important step in encouraging more people to exercise."

All of the individuals who participated in the UConn study had a generally positive sense of well-being going into the project and were generally physically active.

Whether the same results would hold true for people with lower subjective well-being or lower levels of physical activity is unknown, Panza added.

The study was published in the Journal of Health Psychology in February.