Money, in fact, does not buy happiness, according to research by Yale University and the University of Oxford. Rather, regular exercise, not economic status, is the greatest predictor of one’s overall happiness.
In a Lancet-published study, researchers from Yale and Oxford cross-examined data on the emotional moods, physical activities and income levels of 1.2 million adult Americans.
They used responses from the 2011, 2013, and 2015 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System surveys to determine how often participants felt unwell during the past 30-day period. These responses were juxtaposed with one’s income level and physical activities, which varied from doing housework to road cycling.
The researchers concluded that, on average, Americans who regularly exercise feel unwell for 35 days per year, while Americans who are more sedentary feel unwell for 53 days per year.
Additionally, they found that physically active Americans feel equally as well as Americans who are more sedentary but earn approximately $25,000 more per year.
However, there is a ceiling on how much exercise can do to boost one's happiness, according to the researchers. Adding more and more exercise to one's routine is not necessarily wise.
Three to five training sessions per week is ideal, with each lasting between 30 to 60 minutes, according to the study.
The study states: "In a large U.S. sample, physical exercise was significantly and meaningfully associated with self-reported mental health burden in the past month. More exercise was not always better. Differences as a function of exercise were large relative to other demographic variables such as education and income. Specific types, durations and frequencies of exercise might be more effective clinical targets than others for reducing mental health burden and merit interventional study.”