Study: Exercise Can Actually Change How You See the World

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There are just about a bazillion reasons to exercise: To bulk up, to lose weight, to reduce your risk of disease, to up your energy level, or to just prove to your Instagram followers that you really do work out. But here’s one reason you might not have thought of: To gain a more positive outlook on the world. Sounds…ambitious, right? But, according to the Huffington Post, a new study shows that exercise helps you do just that—the study shows that after a short walk or run, people perceive their environment in a more positive way.


For the study, researchers at Queen’s University in Ontario asked 66 students to complete a questionnaire about anxiety. Then the students were randomly assigned to either stand, walk or jog on the treadmill for 10 minutes. Afterward, they were asked to view a 3D simulation of a human stick figure walking and guess whether the figure was walking toward them or away from them.

Studies done by the same researchers in the past have shown that socially anxious individuals perceive the figure as walking toward them—the more threatening perception. During this study they found that the walkers and runners who’d worked up a sweat on the treadmill perceived the figure as facing toward them less often than those who were instructed to just stand still on the treadmill. Meaning, the folks who’d gotten some exercise saw their environment in a less threatening, more positive way.

As study co-author Adam Heenan told the Huffington Post, “This is a big development because it helps to explain why exercising and relaxation techniques have been successful in treating mood and anxiety disorders in the past.”

So, next time you’re feeling a bit down on your surroundings, who knows? Some time on the treadmill could be just the fix.

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