Exercise, Excitement and Enthusiasm

Here’s yet another reason to get to the gym. According to new research, people who are more physically active report higher levels of enthusiasm and excitement than people who exercise less. In addition, people are more likely to report feeling excited and enthusiastic on days when they exercise more than usual.

Researchers at Penn State asked 190 students to keep daily diaries that included sleep quantity and quality and free-time physical activity, along with their mental states, including stress and other feelings. The study subjects were only supposed to record physical activity that lasted at least 15 minutes and to note whether it was mild, moderate or vigorous. They returned their diaries to the study authors at the end of each day for eight days.

The researchers separated the volunteers’ feeling states into four categories: “pleasant-activated feelings exemplified by excitement and enthusiasm, pleasant-deactivated feelings exemplified by satisfaction and relaxation, unpleasant-activated feelings exemplified by anxiety and anger, and unpleasant-deactivated feelings exemplified by depression and sadness.” They found that people who were more physically active had more  “pleasant-activated feelings” than people who were less active, and that people had more such feelings on days when they got more physical activity than usual.

The authors of the study say these findings suggest that exercising more than you typically do can give you “a burst of pleasant-activated feelings.”