Physical activity is a widely accessible and effective tool for improving well-being. This study aimed to unpack the feel-good effects of free-time physical activity. Multilevel models were applied to repeated measures of daily free-time physical activity and four types of feeling states obtained from 190 undergraduate students. Physical activity was not associated with pleasant–deactivated, unpleasant–activated, or unpleasant–deactivated feelings. People who were more physically active overall had higher pleasant–activated feelings than people who were less physically active, and on days when people were more physically active than was typical for them, they reported higher levels of pleasant–activated feelings. Both the between- and within-person associations remained significant after controlling for day of week, sleep quality, and carryover effects of previous day free-time physical activity and feeling states. Results suggest that both increases in overall levels and acute bouts of free-time physical activity are associated with increases in feelings of pleasant-activation.
Amanda L. Hyde and David E. Conroy are with the Department of Kinesiology, Aaron L. Pincus is with the Department of Psychology, and Nilam Ram is with the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.