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Feeling down? Get moving, researchers say

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Ann Arbor, MI — As Elle Woods said in the movie “Legally Blonde”: “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” A new study from the University of Michigan supports that sentiment.

Researchers reviewed 23 studies to determine whether a link between physical activity and a positive state of mind exists, as well as which groups of people were most likely to benefit from the effects. The studies included health information on children, teens and adults.

The researchers found that, “compared to inactive people, the odds ratio of being happy was 20, 29 and 52 percent higher for people who were insufficiently active, sufficiently active, or very active, respectively.”

For children and teens in particular, engaging in physical activity once a week increased their odds of being happy by 1.4 times if they were average weight and 1.5 times if they were overweight, according to the results of one reviewed study. Another found that children and teens who were physically active at least twice a week were happier than those who exercised only once per week.

Among adults, exercise was associated with happiness, but the researchers noted that participants’ current state of health and social functioning also played a role.

“Our findings suggest the physical activity frequency and volume are essential factors in the relationship between physical activity and happiness,” said Weiyun Chen, associate professor in kinesiology at UM, said in an April 4 press release. “More importantly, even a small change of physical activity makes a difference in happiness.”

The study was published online March 24 in the Journal of Happiness Studies.

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