Researchers have found that people who are more physically active have greater levels of excitement and enthusiasm than people who are less physically active.
Also people are more likely to be excited and enthusiastic on days when they are more physically active than usual, say Penn State researchers.
"You don't have to be the fittest person who is exercising every day to receive the feel-good benefits of exercise," said David Conroy, professor of kinesiology.
"It's a matter of taking it one day at a time, of trying to get your activity in, and then there's this feel-good reward afterwards," he explained.
The researchers asked 190 university students to keep daily diaries of their lived experiences, including free-time physical activity and sleep quantity and quality, as well as their mental states, including perceived stress and feeling states.
Participants were instructed to record only those episodes of physical activity that occurred for at least 15 minutes and to note whether the physical activity was mild, moderate or vigorous.
Participants returned their diaries to the researchers at the end of each day for a total of eight days.
According to Amanda Hyde, kinesiology graduate student, the team separated the participants' feeling states into four categories: pleasant-activated feelings exemplified by excitement and enthusiasm, pleasant-deactivated feelings exemplified by satisfaction and relaxation, unpleasant-activated feelings exemplified by anxiety and anger, and unpleasant-deactivated feelings exemplified by depression and sadness.
"We found that people who are more physically active have more pleasant-activated feelings than people who are less active, and we also found that people have more pleasant-activated feelings on days when they are more physically active than usual," said Hyde.
"Our results suggest that not only are there chronic benefits of physical activity, but there are discrete benefits as well. Doing more exercise than you typically do can give you a burst of pleasant-activated feelings. So today, if you want a boost, go do some moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise," she concluded.
The researchers published their results in the current issue of the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology.