Life potentials Why Does Exercise Make You Happy?

Exercise has proved just as helpful as an antidepressant as anti-depressant medicine. And the effect is much more lasting.

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Exercising makes you happy! 

Have you ever wondered why there are so many people going to the gym, jogging, running for miles and doing other physical activities that to most, would sound like a tiring and body-breaking activity? 

Why do they even bother? Why do they enjoy pushing their bodies to their limits?

Well, there are many good reasons for exercising - and one is that it makes us happy.

Top Reasons Why Exercise Make Us Happy

1. Increases Stress Tolerance

When you exercise, you experience a lower level form of stress which quickens your heartbeat and triggers bursts of hormonal changes. When you do it often enough, your stress tolerance is raised and your ability to handle stressors improve. The less you stress about life, the happier you become.

2. Releases Feel Good Chemicals in the Brain 

Dopamine, the chemical that’s responsible for pleasure and happiness is released into the brain when you exercise. As we grow older, studies suggest that our store of Dopamine decreases, and we should engage in activities that can help increase its production.

Another chemical that’s released during exercise is a protein called BDNF or Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor. This protein has protects and repairs our memory neurons. Like a reboot, our minds become clearer after exercising because of this protein.

Endorphin is another well-known, feel-good chemical produced by the brain. To minimize the stress and discomfort brought about by exercising, our brain releases bursts of endorphin – giving us a feeling akin to euphoria.

3. Gives a Sense of Control

Exercising gives you a feeling of being in control. As you see your body transform through your efforts, you feel accomplished. Knowing you have the power to make changes, makes you happy.

4. Boosts Self Confidence

Looking good makes us feel good, and increases our confidence. When you don’t like the way you look, it can invoke negative emotions that will affect many areas of your life.

5. Anxiety Buster

Studies have shown that people who suffer from anxiety are relieved not just by the immediate mood boost that results from exercising, but also long term. The effect is similar to the calm induced by meditation and group therapy.

We all search for happiness, it sounds like a simple thing to achieve. We go to great lengths to find it, and we know that it has eluded many. Anxiety and depression are diseases of this age. Maybe we’re looking in the wrong places and complicating things. Understanding why we feel happiness can simplify our quest, and make it more attainable.

People Who Exercise are Happier People 

In the book “The Happiness Advantage,” the author mentioned a study that proves exercise is just as powerful as happy pills in relieving depression. 3 groups of depressed patients were asked to experiment with different coping strategies. One group used anti-depressants, another group was told to exercise for 45 minutes – 3 times a week. The last group did a combination of both strategies.

After 4 months, tests on the group revealed a similar level of improvement. What’s fascinating is that simply exercising every other day, worked just as well as anti-depressants. 6 months later, the same participants were tested for relapse rate. Here’s where it becomes interesting….

  • The group that took the anti-depressants had a 38% relapse rate. 
  • The group which combined anti-depressants and exercise had a 31% relapse rate. 
  • The group that exercised for 45 minutes, 3 times a week had a 9% relapse rate.

Exercise doesn’t just give you a temporary mood lift, its effect can be continuous and long lasting.

Get Moving and Be Happy

Happiness need no longer be an elusive dream. Simple things such as regular exercise can give you a better outlook in life, and improve your physical health too. These days, we spend most of our time sitting down, watching TV, browsing on our computers, and on other activities that doesn’t require moving about. No wonder many of us become obese, get sick and suffer from depression.

Our bodies are designed to move – and we should indulge in activities that keep us moving. Start with 15 minutes of walking or mild exercise a day. You’d be surprised at how this simple activity can improve your outlook and positively affect your life.

References

  1. Bufferapp: What happens to our brain when we exercise and why it makes us happier
  2. The Pursuit of Happiness: Health and Wellness
  3. How Stuff Works: Is there a link between exercise and happiness?

The Happiness Advantage

Read more about the positive effects of exercising in terms of increased happiness and well-being in the book “The Happiness Advantage” by Harvard graduate Shawn Achor.


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