The positive effects of physical activity on mood are well documented in cross-sectional studies. To date there have been only a few studies analyzing within-subject covariance between physical activity and mood in everyday life. This study aims to close this gap using an ambulatory assessment of mood and physical activity. Thirteen participants completed a standardized diary over a 10-week period, resulting in 1,860 measurement points. Valence, energetic arousal, and calmness are the three subscales of mood that were assessed. Participants rated their mood promptly after self-selected activities. A multilevel analysis indicates that the three dimensions of mood were positively affected by episodes of physical activity, such as walking or gardening—valence: t(12) = 5.6, p < .001; energetic arousal: t(12) = 2.4, p = .033; calmness: t(12) = 2.8, p = .015. Moreover, the association is affected by the individual baseline mood level, with the greatest effect seen when mood is depressed.
Kanning and Schlicht are with the Department of Sport and Exercise Science, University of Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany.