The association between exercise participation and well-being: a co-twin study

Prev Med. 2007 Feb;44(2):148-52. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2006.09.002. Epub 2006 Oct 23.


Objective: We investigated the association between leisure time exercise participation and well-being (i.e., life satisfaction and happiness) and examined the causality underlying this association.

Method: The association between exercise participation and well-being was assessed in around 8000 subjects, (age range 18-65 years) from The Netherlands Twin Registry (NTR). Causality was tested with the co-twin control method in 162 monozygotic (MZ) twin pairs, 174 dizygotic (DZ) twin and sibling pairs, and 2842 unrelated individuals.

Results: Exercisers were more satisfied with their life and happier than non-exercisers at all ages. The odds ratio for life satisfaction given exercise participation was significantly higher than unity in unrelated pairs, and a trend was visible in DZ pairs. In MZ pairs, the odds ratio was close to unity. The pattern of odds ratios for happiness given exercise participation was similar.

Conclusion: Exercise participation is associated with higher levels of life satisfaction and happiness. This association is non-causal and appears to be mediated by genetic factors that influence both exercise behavior and well-being.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Happiness*
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Registries
  • Twins / physiology
  • Twins / psychology*
  • Twins, Dizygotic
  • Twins, Monozygotic