This article is from the In-Depth Report The Science of Weight Loss
60-Second Mind

Eat, Exercise and Be Merry

Research shows that people who write down what they are grateful for may exercise more. Rachel Mahan reports

[Below is the original script. But a few changes may have been made during the recording of this audio podcast.]


Thanksgiving is a time for, well, giving thanks—for juicy turkey, steaming mashed potatoes, and a cool slice of pie. Mmmm, what could be better? Well, remembering what you're thankful for might have some less obvious advantages.

Psychologists writing in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people who kept weekly gratitude journals exercised an hour and a half per week longer than their grumbling peers. Imagine the benefits as we head into “eating season.”

Once a week for 10 weeks, participants noted up to five things they were grateful for, including anything from "waking up this morning" to "the Rolling Stones." By the end of the study, they were working out an hour and a half more per week than a group that just wrote about life's hassles, such as "stupid people driving" or "messy kitchen no one will clean."

Robert Emmons, a psychologist at the University of California, Davis, said in a phone interview that gratitude may be a strategy people use to stay committed to exercise, based on his subsequent studies of self-described grateful people. They might remember that they are lucky to be able to move around pain-free, he said.

Participants in the gratitude group also reported feeling more enthusiastic and determined, which could help fuel exercise. Emmons calls it a not-so-vicious cycle.

This Thanksgiving, remember: You can have your pumpkin pie (and turkey and dressing and mashed potatoes) and eat them, too.

—Rachel Mahan

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