Wednesday, January 11, 2017

People who move more are happier.

No surprises here, but this study polling people using a smartphone app designed by the experimenters quantifies the effect. The use of smartphones to gather large-scale data is becoming a growth industry. A notable earlier study of this sort was Killingsworth and Gilbert's 2010 "A wandering mind is an unhappy mind."
Physical activity, both exercise and non-exercise, has far-reaching benefits to physical health. Although exercise has also been linked to psychological health (e.g., happiness), little research has examined physical activity more broadly, taking into account non-exercise activity as well as exercise. We examined the relationship between physical activity (measured broadly) and happiness using a smartphone application. This app has collected self-reports of happiness and physical activity from over ten thousand participants, while passively gathering information about physical activity from the accelerometers on users' phones. The findings reveal that individuals who are more physically active are happier. Further, individuals are happier in the moments when they are more physically active. These results emerged when assessing activity subjectively, via self-report, or objectively, via participants' smartphone accelerometers. Overall, this research suggests that not only exercise but also non-exercise physical activity is related to happiness. This research further demonstrates how smartphones can be used to collect large-scale data to examine psychological, behavioral, and health-related phenomena as they naturally occur in everyday life.


  1. Could it be that moving stops mind wandering? Did they control for mind wandering?

    1. The link given brings up the whole text of the article, and I don't see any reference to asking about mind wandering. Offhand, I would expect periods of movement to engage more attentional than default (mind wandering) brain activity.