WHY EXERCISE MAKES US HAPPY

Joschi NYC
5 min readApr 23, 2020

We all know that regular exercise can help us to maintain a healthy weight, build muscles and keep our heart healthy. But now a new review of research showed that even small amounts of exercise — as little as 10 minutes once a week — can have an incredibly positive effect on our happiness and given the current situation with COVID-19, it is more important than ever that we find those pockets of happiness whenever we can.

Of course, the idea that exercise can improve our mood is not new and a lot of us have experienced feeling more relaxed and less cranky after we work out, practice yoga, go for a run in the park or swim in the ocean. But while most of us are aware of what happens in our bodies when we exercise, when it comes to its effects on our mood and brain the connection isn’t as clear.

Research shows that physically active people generally have more pleasant feelings and report greater feelings of enthusiasm and excitement compared to less physically active people. When we exercise, our brain recognizes this as a moment of stress and to protect ourselves and our brain from stress, it releases the protein BDNF — Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor. BDNF acts as a reset switch and has a protective as well as reparative element for our memory neurons.

At the same time, another chemical to fight stress is released — endorphins. According to research, endorphins main purpose is to minimize the discomfort of exercise, stop the feeling of pain of exercise and even triggers feelings of euphoria.

Additionally, another neurotransmitter that plays a big role in our happiness is released — dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for feelings of pleasure and happiness and one of the easiest ways to increase dopamine production is to exercise.

Two more neurotransmitters are released when we exercise — serotonin and norepinephrine. Serotonin regulates mood and social behavior, appetite and digestion, memory, sleep and sexual desire and function. Norepinephrine increases our heart rate, triggers the release of glucose into the blood and increases the blood flow to our muscles all while boosting alertness and arousal as well as the speed of our reaction time.

Besides these important brain chemicals that make us happy, exercise has even more reasons why it makes you happy.

#1 Exercise Lowers Stress Levels

Exercise doesn’t just reduce stress in the short term by sweating out our daily worries. Working out on a regular basis also helps to lower our stress levels in the long term. When we exercise, we actually subject ourselves to low levels of stress by increasing our heart rate and triggering a plethora of hormonal changes. Subjecting ourselves to this low level of stress through exercise on a regular basis teaches our body to learn to deal with stress and with that we will be able to handle the other levels of stress we encounter in life a lot better as well. And we all know that less stress means a happier, healthier life.

#2 Exercise Builds Mental Resilience

Pushing ourselves physically when we exercise leads to mental toughness and when we are mentally tougher, we can handle everyday stresses a lot better. Pushing ourselves during exercise leads to mental toughness because we are willing to endure short term discomfort for success later on. And the more we push ourselves, the more we start to wonder what else we can achieve. Some people even develop an addiction to creating this mental resilience and with that it takes them further and further in any sport. Once you build mental toughness in your workout, you can transfer that into other aspects of your life and feel like you can handle anything.

#3 Exercise Boosts Confidence

Regular exercise transforms out body and when you feel good about your body and your appearance, you will get a big boost to your self-esteem and self-confidence, which has a positive effect on every other area of your life including your career, your relationships, your goals and aspirations. The good news is that regular exercise doesn’t just change your body and appearance, you will also feel stronger, more independent and more overall confident. And a boost in confidence leads to a big boost in happiness overall.

#4 Exercise Energizes

We’ve all been there. When we’ve had a long day and feel tired and exhausted, the last thing we want to do is to work out. But no matter how exhausted you are, find the willpower to push yourself to work out, because you will feel incredibly energized afterwards and can take on any project that may come your way. So instead of vegging out on the sofa, force yourself to get up and workout. And we all know that the more energy we have, the happier we are.

#5 Exercise Improves Sleep

Lack of sleep can make us irritable, cranky and cantankerous. Instead of reaching for sleeping pills when you have trouble getting enough sleep, exercise instead. Research has shown over and over again that exercising on a regular basis can help to improve our sleep and sleep quality. And not only that, it can give us a pep to make us want to get out of bed in the morning and get things done. And having a good night’s sleep equals greater happiness every single time.

#6 Exercise Makes Life Easier

One big advantage of exercising on a regular basis is that it makes us stronger and improves our cardiovascular fitness and with that makes life a lot easier. Lugging around groceries, climbing up stairs, moving furniture around the house and simply getting from point A to point B becomes a piece of cake once you are physically strong. Wouldn’t you be happier, if your everyday chores become easier?

Research has consistently shown that regular exercise improves our mood and some even argue that exercise is as effective in treating depression as therapy and antidepressants. But exercise has an even larger effect on our happiness because it increases our self-esteem and self-confidence and shapes us into a new identity. And all that without any negative side effects.

If you are looking for more workout inspiration check out our HIIT Yoga Workout or HIIT Strength Workout.

EXERCISE AND BE HAPPY
Joschi & Monika
JoschiNYC.com

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Joschi NYC

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