Here’s Why Exercise Really Makes You Happier
Have you ever noticed that when you get into a new exercise routine, you start to feel happier and less anxious? You may be less tired, more confident and sick less often. There are many psychological and physiological reasons why exercise can make you a happier person, including these five important ones.
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1. Increased Energy
If you’ve noticed yourself feeling more fatigued lately and you’ve already checked with your doctor to make sure you don’t have a medical condition, consider upping your physical activity. Regular exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. This leads to a more effective cardiovascular system, which can help you feel like you have more energy. Regular workouts can also build stronger muscles and better endurance, which will help you feel less tired during the exercise itself as well as during daily tasks like shopping and chores.
2. A Sense Of Accomplishment
This one doesn’t require a lot of explanation. Reaching fitness goals is an achievement worthy of celebration. In addition to feeling better, people who reach their fitness goals tend to be more satisfied with their physical appearance. This can lead to increased pride and confidence. Zipping up a pair of jeans that hasn’t fit for months, noticing new arm muscles, or trying on an outfit in a smaller size: these can put a smile on anyone’s face.
3. Stimulates The Mind
Exercise can benefit your mind in multiple ways. First, it can break up the monotony of the day. If you’re working at a desk and staring at a screen for hours on end, taking a walk at lunch or hitting the gym in the evening will give your life structure and offer a well-needed change in scenery. Secondly, exercise targets the muscles in your body, including your brain. Here’s what happens to your brain when you exercise: Your heart rate increases, which causes more oxygen to pump to your brain. Hormones are released, which help your brain cells grow. Exercise makes it easier to grow new neuronal connections. The hippocampus the part of the brain that learns and memorizes grows more cells during exercise. Exercises that are both physically and mentally challenging (think ballroom dancing or any workout that requires coordination, rhythm or strategy) have been shown to impact cognitive functioning more than either exercise or mental tasks alone.
4. Boosts Your Immune System
Exercise helps your body in big ways, such as lessening your risk of developing heart disease, osteoporosis and cancer. Exercise can also help your body in smaller, day-to-day ways. Exercise can help your immune system fight against bacterial and viral infections. Here are a few theories why: Exercise, which can lead to an increase in sweat and urine production, may help flush bacteria out of the lungs. Physical activity may also send antibodies and white bloods cells through the body faster. As your body temperature rises, bacterial growth may be blocked. The release of stress-related hormones can also be slowed through exercise. A body that is less stressed is less apt to become ill.
5. Ah, Yes: The Endorphins!
Endorphins are neurotransmitters, or brain chemicals that transmit electrical signals in the nervous system. They’re often released when the body feels stress or pain. During these times, endorphins communicate with the brain’s opiate receptors and trick the brain into thinking it’s in less pain. Basically, endorphins act as natural painkillers. When endorphins are released, the body feels less pain and more euphoria. The negative impact of stress decreases. This is where the term “runner’s high” comes from: as we subject our body to the increased pain and stress of running, it responds by releasing endorphins that counteract the pain and leave us feeling euphoric.
Working out is often associated with a feeling of dread or obligation. It’s another thing we feel like we must do, on par with filing taxes and going to work every day. But when you stop and think about the many physical and mental benefits of exercise, it seems like less of a chore and more of a treat. Exercise is a gift you can give yourself every day to transport your mind to a happier place. And unlike using drugs and alcohol or binging on food, you won’t regret it tomorrow.