Staying physically active in midlife depends a lot on your overall satisfaction with life or mental wellbeing a decade earlier, not just your physical health, suggests new research.
Men and women with high mental well-being at the age of 42 were more physically active at the age of 50 compared to those who got lower scores in mental well-being at age 42, said the study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life.
The researchers investigated mental well-being through three dimensions: emotional, psychological and social well-being.
Emotional well-being indicates overall satisfaction with life and a tendency to have positive feelings. Psychological well-being refers to experiences of personal growth and the purpose of life. Social well-being tells about relationships with other people and the community.
The researchers found that leisure time physical activity did not predict later mental well-being or subjective health, but mental well-being predicted physical activity.
It seems that mental well-being is an important resource for maintaining a physically active lifestyle in midlife, said Tiia Kekalainen from University of Jyvaskyla, Finland.
For the study, the researchers gathered data from over 300 people at ages 42 and 50 by questionnaires and interviews.
Walking was related to emotional well-being, rambling in nature to social well-being and endurance training to subjective health, the study said.
"Although exercise did not predict later mental well-being or subjective health in this study, exercise is important for current mental well-being and health," Kekalainen said.