People with an active lifestyle have higher wellbeing

According to our Eudaimonia research report, staying active is one of the secrets to feeling happier.
19 December 2016

“When I work out regularly I feel a lot sharper, I can work harder and I sleep better at night,” says Justin Cowling, a 46-year-old member of YMCA Club, London. Like many others, Justin started going to the gym as a way of managing work stress. 

“The biggest change is in my mental health – positivity, patience and the ability to concentrate are huge differences. It’s all about being happy,” he says. “At 46, I’m in the best shape of my life and fitter, stronger and healthier than I’ve ever been.”

Exploring the UK’s wellbeing

With just 13% of the population belong to a gym, and only 4.28% actually making it through the door on a regular basis, most of us aren’t tapping into the benefits of exercise that Justin has observed. But maybe his experience is just a one off? 

Out of all the people we spoke to, those with an active lifestyle recorded the highest wellbeing scores

To help us better understand the situation, we commissioned a study into the UK’s wellbeing. The results were published in our report ‘Eudaimonia: How do humans flourish?’ and they make for interesting reading.

Out of all the people we spoke to, those with an active lifestyle recorded the highest wellbeing scores (an average score of 6.92 out of 10). Those who are now much more active than they were three years ago enjoyed an uplift in wellbeing of 8%. While people who became much less fit over the last three years saw wellbeing drop by 22%.

Concerned about wide gap in wellbeing scores in our report between those who are most and least active Steven Ward, Executive Director, ukactive said: “Clearly, this is something we must address and the key will be helping people to overcome the barriers to exercise. Britain is currently in the grip of a cradle-to-grave physical inactivity crisis, so it’s vital that we place greater effort into inspiring movement and offering targeted exercise interventions to those who need it most.” 

Overcoming the barriers

So, what are these barriers to exercise? And what can we do about them? 

When asked what could be done to boost activity levels, most people we surveyed said they needed more free time or money to improve this aspect of their lifestyle. That suggests the answer lies in free, or low-cost opportunities to exercise. Employers should also make time for their employees to get active, and we need to encourage parents to exercise alongside their kids.

Peter Fitzboydon, London Sport’s Chief Executive said that the 32% gap in wellbeing scores between those that lead an active lifestyle and those that don’t “came as no surprise”, but added: “It starkly sets out the importance of developing physical activity and sport programmes that work for those people that are most likely to experience low levels of personal wellbeing.”

Getting the mix right

Interestingly, our report’s findings are not just confined to physical activity. They suggest that the highest levels of wellbeing are achieved when a healthy balance is maintained comprising of physical activity, mental stimulation and close relationships. 

With the average Brit scoring just 6.13/10 for their overall wellbeing in our report it’s clear more work needs to be done. To get better results, it looks like this the direction of travel.

Read the full report ‘Eudaimonia: How do humans flourish?’