BOSTON — 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 rated how 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.
The researchers also noted they did not ask people about the purpose of their activities. When participants said they were physically active, they could have been doing anything from housework to biking to work to walking in the park with family.
More research is needed to determine whether enjoyment of activity differs by purpose, said Dunton, who presented the findings here today at the meeting of the American Public Health Association.
Another study published last year found that people are in a better moodwhen they view the color green while exercising.
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Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.