Happier People Live More Active Lives: Using Smartphones to Link Happiness and Physical Activity

PLoS One. 2017 Jan 4;12(1):e0160589. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0160589. eCollection 2017.


Physical activity, both exercise and non-exercise, has far-reaching benefits to physical health. Although exercise has also been linked to psychological health (e.g., happiness), little research has examined physical activity more broadly, taking into account non-exercise activity as well as exercise. We examined the relationship between physical activity (measured broadly) and happiness using a smartphone application. This app has collected self-reports of happiness and physical activity from over ten thousand participants, while passively gathering information about physical activity from the accelerometers on users' phones. The findings reveal that individuals who are more physically active are happier. Further, individuals are happier in the moments when they are more physically active. These results emerged when assessing activity subjectively, via self-report, or objectively, via participants' smartphone accelerometers. Overall, this research suggests that not only exercise but also non-exercise physical activity is related to happiness. This research further demonstrates how smartphones can be used to collect large-scale data to examine psychological, behavioral, and health-related phenomena as they naturally occur in everyday life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accelerometry / instrumentation
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Happiness*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Multilevel Analysis
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Self Report
  • Smartphone*
  • Young Adult

Grant support

This study was funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council's project "UBhave: ubiquitous and social computing for positive behaviour change" (http://gow.epsrc.ac.uk/NGBOViewGrant.aspx?GrantRef=EP/I032673/1). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.