A new Finnish study finds that 42-year-olds who scored high in tests of mental well-being were more physically active at age 50 compared to those with lower well-being scores.
For the study, the researchers divided mental well-being into three dimensions: emotional well-being (overall satisfaction with life and a tendency to have positive feelings); psychological well-being (experiences of personal growth and the purpose of life); and social well-being (relationships with other people and the community).
The researchers were surprised that leisure time physical activity (LTPA) did not predict later mental well-being or subjective health, but that mental well-being did predict physical activity.
It seems that mental well-being is an important resource for maintaining a physically active lifestyle in midlife, says Dr. Tiia Kekäläinen from the Gerontology Research Center and Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland.
In addition, the researchers found that different leisure time physical activities were linked to different dimensions of well-being in 50-year-olds. Walking was related to emotional well-being, rambling in nature to social well-being and endurance training to subjective health.
“Although exercise did not predict later mental well-being or subjective health in this study, exercise is important for current mental well-being and health,” Kekäläinen says.
These associations were found among both men and women, but additionally, rambling in nature was associated with both emotional well-being and subjective health, but only among men.
“It is possible that rambling in nature means different things for men and women. For example, it correlated with the frequency of vigorous exercise only among men,” Kekäläinen says.
In today’s world, where most jobs are sedentary, leisure time physical activity — as opposed to sedentary leisure time — plays a key role in the recuperation of both body and mind, say the authors. Leisure time physical activities may include anything from walking and rambling in nature to bike riding, swimming and skiing.
The findings are published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life.
Source: University of Jyväskylä