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How and who you exercise with affects your mental wellbeing

How and who you exercise with affects your mental wellbeing

Exercising with others improves happiness, energy and wellbeing
Getting active in natural settings improves overall wellbeing
High energy levels yet depressed mood for people who work out with a trainer

Key findings released today reveal that how you exercise – indoors versus outdoors and whether you exercise alone or as part of a group can impact your wellbeing.

The Sovereign Wellbeing IndexExercise and Wellbeing in New Zealand report examines the relationship between wellbeing and exercise including the contexts in which it is undertaken.

The report used four key wellbeing outcomes – awesome (used to describe the highest levels of wellbeing), depressed mood (measured using the internationally recognised CESD-8 depression scale), happiness (a single item measure of positive affect) and high energy (a single item measure of vitality).

Professor Grant Schofield of AUT’s Human Potential Centre, says the report reveals important insights into the relationship between exercise and wellbeing.

“The findings suggest that there may be two groups of exercisers: those who engage in active recreation for health, fitness, and enjoyment and those who engage in structured exercise to achieve specific performance or health goals.

“We all know exercise is an important part of overall wellbeing – delving deeper into this, the report is indicating that consideration of how we are exercising can further benefit happiness, vitality and overall wellbeing. Exercise shouldn’t be a chore – it’s about understanding what’s working best for each individual and ultimately making you happy.”

Who you exercise with:
• Exercising with friends, family or colleagues is shown to be more beneficial than exercising alone – just 13% of those exercising with social networks were associated with depressed mood, while almost a third (27%) reported happiness, and almost half (47%) had high energy and 31% were awesome.
• Prevalence of high energy was greatest among those exercising with a team and a group of people and lowest among those exercising on their own (although still higher than non-exercisers).
• Interestingly, 53% of exercisers who train with a personal trainer or instructor had high energy, but 26% also reported having a depressed mood.

Youthline mentor and intern psychologist Bridget McNamara says that exercise plays a fundamental role in the process of combatting depression among young people.

“The young people we work with are encouraged to track their feelings before and after exercise, enabling them to later reflect on their progress and changes in their mood. This process, more often than not, shows an improvement in happiness and overall outlook on life after exercise.

“The Sovereign Wellbeing Index report shows that exercising with people we are close with can have a positive impact on wellbeing which is likely to be connected to the wellbeing benefits of interacting socially with others.”

Where you exercise:
• Those who exercise outdoors in natural settings had a greater prevalence of being awesome, happy, and had higher energy levels, than those who did not exercise outdoors in natural settings.
• A total of 17% of those who exercise indoors at home reported depressed mood, the second highest rate after the almost one in five Kiwis who do not exercise at all on a weekly basis.

Interim Sovereign CEO, Sharron Botica says the report findings are useful in helping Kiwis understand the relationship between exercise and wellbeing and how simple tweaks to the way you exercise can increase the positive benefits associated with being active.

“We live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world – as a nation we should embrace the great outdoors when exercising, particularly during the summer months. Whether that’s through joining an outdoor boot camp, getting your friends together for a game of frisbee golf, jumping on a paddle board or taking the dog for a walk along the beach, there are so many interesting ways to get active beyond hitting the gym.”

The Sovereign Wellbeing Index is a national representation of how New Zealanders are faring on a personal and social level, and was created with the vision of helping to frame personal choices and public policy and action in New Zealand.

As a leading New Zealand life insurer, Sovereign believes it has a key role to play in helping New Zealanders improve their health and wellbeing.


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