Tell any wellness expert that you're cranky or in a funk, and it's likely that their first piece of advice will be to get up and get moving. They're not wrong: Exercise has been shown to boost mood significantly. Take yoga, for instance—a weekly flow can improve depression symptoms by upward of 50%.
But oftentimes, attending a studio, hitting the gym, or even going for a run isn't realistic—like, say, when you slept through your alarm on the Tuesday after Memorial Day weekend, have so much on your to-do list, and simply can't shake that post-vacay crankiness. Here's some good news: According to a new study published in the Journal of Health Psychology, boosting your mood could be as simple as taking a few laps around your office.
Researchers at the University of Connecticut found that mild physical activity can bolster feelings of well-being just as effectively as vigorous exercise. In fact, "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."
That's good news for those of us who aren't Crossfit athletes or marathon runners; we don't have to drip with sweat in order to reap the emotional benefits of exercise. "Our results indicate you will get the best 'bang for your buck' with light- or moderate-intensity physical activity," says Gregory Panza, the study's lead author.
So what qualifies as light to moderate physical activity, anyway? According to the study, "light physical activity is the equivalent of taking a leisurely walk around the mall with no noticeable increase in breathing, heart rate, or sweating." Moderate activity, on the other hand, is equivalent to walking a 15-to-20-minute mile—you might sweat a little and increase your heart rate, but you can still carry a conversation. (In other words, it's totally doable.)
It's also worth noting that the participants who experienced the greatest increase in emotional well-being were also the people who had lead a rather "sedentary" lifestyle before the study. It just goes to show that boosting your physical and emotional well-being doesn't have to be a drastic commitment—so throw on some comfortable shoes and take a walk, because you'll be happier for it.
Next up, read about how you can lessen anxiety in one minute with essential oils.