There's a New Theory On Why Exercise Breeds Happiness

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We know that exercise and happiness go hand-in-hand (endorphins, remember?) but there is a new study in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, which asks a very important question: "Does exercise on a given day increase the frequency of additional positive events?" Which can be rephrased as, if you exercise today will you be happier tomorrow? The answer to that questions seems to be a resounding yes.

The study went a little something like this: For three weeks, participants filled out a survey at the end of the day reporting on happiness levels, productivity, and exercise patterns. As the study found, "daily exercise predicted increased positive social and achievement events on the same day. Exercise on one day also predicted greater positive social events on the subsequent day." This is what the study calls "a positive cascade." AKA it seems that exercise one day leads to positive effects and interactions the following day. For instance, if you work out on a Tuesday on Wednesday you might find you're having more meaningful conversations, pleasurable social interactions, and productive work hours. It's all connected.

Unfortunately, even that finding doesn't perpetuate a cycle of exercise for most people. The study did not figure out how to keep people exercising once they realize it leads to positive social and mental benefits. The truth is, it seems like getting off the couch is still just as hard, no matter how many positive effects it brings.