4 Ways Exercise Makes You Happy
By guest blogger Linda Melone, CSCS
Studying what makes people happy is a lot like investigating how a cat purrs: The minute you try figuring it out, the cat stops purring. Yet, over time research has figured out a thing or two about happiness among humans.
Regular exercise is proven to help turn that frown upside down in a number of different ways. If you are a seasoned exerciser you likely know this already. And so does everyone around you when you’re forced to skip your workout for whatever reason. Crabbiness is a major side effect of missing out on your routine.
If you’re new to exercise, this may be a surprise. You can get joy from exercise?
Absolutely. Let us count the ways…
- Exercise releases feel-good chemicals
Whether or not you’re a runner, you’re probably familiar with the term “runner’s high.” Not only is it a real thing, but you don’t have to be a runner to experience it. Simple walking, stretching, and muscle relaxation tactics all have been found to be effective as happiness boosters. When you exercise long enough your body produces its own opioids, or endorphins, which suppress pain, reduce stress, relieve anxiety and enhance mood while decreasing the perception of pain. Yes, please.
- Exercise clears your head
Stress and everything that typically goes with it — worries, negative thinking and physical symptoms — are easier to put aside when you’re working out. Taking a break from work woes by going for a walk or lifting weights can help you keep things in perspective and make problems seem smaller when you return. A Swedish study shows exercise at work also boosts productivity in several ways, including increasing stamina.
- Exercise acts like an antidepressant
Men and women who used aerobic exercise as a way to fight depression had the same success rates as people who used antidepressant drugs or those who used a combination of exercise and medications, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. It took only 16 weeks of exercise for the two modalities to equalize.
- Exercise improves your memory
Yes, it’s true, exercise can increase happiness by eliminating the stress of trying to remember the lead singer of that 80s band… you know, the one with the long hair? Regular aerobic exercise increases the size of the brain’s hippocampus, responsible for memory and learning, say researchers from the University of British Columbia.
Start slowly and work up to 30 minutes on most days of the week for greatest benefit. Now go get happy!