Fruit, vegetables, and exercise may be the keys to a happy life

CANTERBURY, United Kingdom — The key to a happy life may come down to what’s in your diet. A new study finds eating more fruit and vegetables each day (and exercising regularly) can lead to more happiness.

In a first of its kind study, researchers from the Universities of Kent and Reading demonstrated that these lifestyle changes make people happier in comparison to individuals who are already eating lots of healthy produce or those keeping their same old diet.

Dr. Adelina Gschwandtner at the University of Kent’s School of Economics, Dr. Sarah Jewell, and Professor Uma Kambhampati from the University of Reading’s School of Economics used an “instrumental variable approach” to filter out any effect from happiness to lifestyle. This showed that consuming fruit and veggies and exercising positively impacts levels of happiness — not the other way around.

Good things come to those who wait

The research, published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, discovered that our ability to delay gratification and apply self-control plays a huge part in influencing our lifestyle decisions. In turn, this has a positive impact on our well-being. Scientists also confirmed that men appear to exercise more, while women are more likely to eat more fruit and vegetables.

“There has been a bigger shift in recent years for healthier lifestyle choices. To establish that eating more fruit and vegetables and exercising can increase happiness as well as offer health benefits is a major development. This may also prove useful for policy campaigns around environment and sustainability,” Prof. Kambhampati says in a university release.

Since lifestyle-related illnesses are the main cause of poor health worldwide, these findings could have significant implications for public health policy. In the United States, more than two in five adults classify as obese; a condition putting many at higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

“Behavioral nudges that help the planning self to reinforce long-term objectives are likely to be especially helpful in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If a better lifestyle not only makes us healthier but also happier, then it is a clear win-win situation,” Dr. Gschwandtner concludes.

South West News Service writer Georgia Lambert contributed to this report.

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