How exercise can help us thrive

Then, Dr. Yemisigil and Dr. Vlaev set the record for 14,159 participants. To increase and enrich their sample, they collected comparable data for the other 4,041 men and women enrolled in a separate study who asked similar questions about people’s physical activities and sense of purpose.

Finally, they matched and compared the results, determining how much, and how quickly, people moved forward, and also how strong their motive was. The researchers then evaluated how those disparate aspects of people’s lives seem to be related to each other over the years, and they found clear intersections. Those who started with an active life generally showed a growing sense of purpose over the years, and those whose sense of purpose was strong initially were the most physically active years later.

The unions were hardly large. Having a strong sense of purpose at one point in people’s lives, later, was combined with the equivalent of taking an extra weekly walk or two. But associations were consistent and remained statistically significant, even when researchers controlled people’s weight, income, education, overall mental health, and other factors.

“It was particularly interesting to see these effects in older people,” Drs. “Since many older people report a decreasing sense of purpose in their lives, and they generally have lower rates of engagement in physical activity,” says Yemisigil.

However, this study was based on people’s subjective estimates of their exercise and purposefulness, which may be unreliable. The findings are also associative, meaning that they show a relationship between having a sense of purpose at one point in your life and being active later or vice versa, so don’t prove that one causes the other.

But Dr. Yemisigil believes that unions are strong and rational. “People often report greater self-efficacy”, she says, which may motivate them to feel capable of setting new goals and developing a new or augmented purpose in life. And on the other hand, “when you have goals and a sense of purpose, you probably want to stay healthy and live long enough to accomplish them.” So, Q exercise, she says.

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