If exercise isn’t your idea of fun, maybe you should invite some friends: A new study suggests people enjoy physical activity more when they’re with others, according to new research presented here on Tuesday (Nov. 5).
For the study, researchers asked 117 people ages 27 to 73 to carry small mobile phones with them for four days. Eight times a day, participants received a prompt on their phone that asked them what they were doing, who they were with, where they were, and if they were outdoors, how much “greenness” was in the area. They also ratedhow happy they were, and how much they were enjoying the activity they were doing.
About 84 people reported at least one bout of physical activity over the four days. [10 Fitness Apps: Which Is Best for Your Personality?]
Those doing physical activity were happier, and enjoyed the physical activity more, when they were with their spouse, friends or co-workers, compared with when they were alone, according to the findings. People also said they were happier when they were exercising outdoors in green areas.
If the findings are confirmed in future studies, researchers may be able to provide recommendations that encourage people not only to be active, but to participate with people and in places that help them to enjoy the activity more, said study researcher Genevieve Dunton, an assistant professor of research at the University of Southern California’s Department of Preventive Medicine. Studies show that people are more likely to repeat activities that they enjoy or find rewarding, and sustain them over the long-term, Dunton said.
The findings suggest “they’re probably more likely to maintain the activity if they’re outdoors in green spaces with people, than if they’re home alone,” Dunton said.
However, the study does not prove that friends and green spaces were the cause of people’s good mood during physical activity. It could be that people go certain places, and spend time with certain people, when they’re already feeling happy, Dunton said.