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Many of us are well-intended to commit to a routine of regular exercise; however the reality often falls short of the intention.

Penn State University (Pennsylvania, USA) 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. The team then 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. The researchers found that people who were more physically active had more pleasant-activated feelings, as compared to people who were less active. Additionally, the team observed that people had more pleasant-activated feelings on days when they were more physically active.

[David E. Conroy, Steriani Elavsky, Amanda L. Hyde, Shawna E. Doerksen. “The Dynamic Nature of Physical Activity Intentions: A Within-Person Perspective on Intention-Behavior Coupling.” Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, February 2012, pages 807–27.]