A bad mood has the power to put a serious damper on your entire day. Sometimes it can feel like no matter how hard you try to shake off the negative vibes, they stubbornly stick around like an annoying ex. On days like this, you probably plan for a long, super intense workout in the hope that the endorphins will make you feel better. But according to a new study, the best workouts to boost your mood really don't have to be that elaborate or complex. Honestly, going outside for a stroll around the block might just do the trick.
According to a new report published in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry, literally any form of exercise — even something as casual as household chores — can help to improve your mood. The report analyzed data from the 2011, 2013, and 2015 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System surveys. In total, the data allowed the researchers to assess the workout habits and well-being of more than 1 million adult participants in the United States, making this one of the largest studies of its kind.
Now, like I said, this report basically found that any type of exercise will do you some good as far as your mood is concerned, but let's talk about what that means specifically, and how exactly the researchers came to that conclusion: According to the study, the researchers found that, on average, people tend to experience about 3.5 days of poor mental health per month overall. But when you factor exercise into the equation, even when it's something as simple as vacuuming around the house or taking a walk around the park, the researchers found that this can reduce those experiences of poor mental health by as much as 1.5 days, or by 43 percent, BuzzFeed News reports. What's more, the news outlet explained, "people who worked out for 30 to 60 minutes at a time, three to five days a week, seemed to get the most benefits" in terms of a boost in well-being.
You read that correctly, people: You really don't have to spend an entire hour or more in the gym on lengthy cardio sessions or weightlifting routines in order to boost your mood. Of course, if you're into those longer workouts, that's awesome — keep doing you, girl. But if your schedule is already so busy that you feel like you barely have time to catch up on Riverdale, let alone exercise, this might be comforting news for you. What's more, the report found that "more exercise was not always better" in terms of a boost in mental health or mood. As BuzzFeed News reports, "people who exercised 23 times a month, or for longer than 90 minutes per session, had worse mental health than those who exercised less often or for shorter periods of time." Adam Chekroud, the study's senior investigator, told the news outlet,
It's not like everyone has to go and run a marathon, and actually running wasn’t even the most effective. Things like yoga, things like walking, even household chores, seemed to have some benefit over doing nothing at all.
But how exactly does exercise lead to these incredible boosts in well-being? Chekroud told BuzzFeed News that regularly working out affects you both physiologically and psychologically. On a physiological level, the news outlet said that "exercise can boost brain-derived neurotrophic factor," which is a protein that's closely linked to mood regulation. And psychologically speaking, Chekroud said exercise is effective in "putting structure into your life — it’s probably making you tired, it’s probably making you sleep better, and so it’s a pretty holistic approach for tackling a number of different things."
Bottom line: You can easily reap the benefits of exercise without completely revamping your lifestyle or stressing about time management. With that in mind, getting into the swing of a semi-regular workout routine really doesn't have to be all that complicated. You could start, for instance, with a few 10-minute home workouts and see just how much your mood improves without even having to make the journey to the gym. Or you could experiment with a mind-clearing yoga flow, or even a stroll outside for your daily dose of movement.
It's important to note, though, that working out isn't a cure-all for poor mental health. Although this research clearly shows that exercise can improve your well-being to a certain extent, Chekroud told BuzzFeed News,
[Exercise is] an important tool that we have for improving mental health, but it’s by no means the only one. I would encourage people to seek out the opinion of a doctor and make sure you are thinking about things like medication, counseling, and psychotherapy.
When it comes down to it, there are so many different factors that influence mood and mental health in general, so remember to do what works best for you (which might include other self-care practices, therapy, or medication), and keep in mind that exercise is simply one of many tools that can help you feel your absolute best.