Anybody who’s ever been in the middle of a gut-busting workout with burning lungs and wobbly legs can testify that in the moment, it is the very opposite of fun. It’s torture, madness even, everything hurts and you’re probably dying.
But eventually, the workout ends.
You finally catch your breath, take a drink, and when your eyes come up to face the world, you’re probably facing it with a smile on your face because it’s over, because you did it, and because you probably can’t wait to do it again.
Seems crazy, right? It’s not. The link between health and happiness has become an increasingly researched phenomenon as a response to the obvious impact negative emotions have on our health and our biological processes.
Extended stress and fear associated emotions add up over time and takes a serious toll on your body, contributing to heart disease, stroke, and even diabetes. Other negative emotions like anger and anxiety can disrupt cardiac function, accelerating atherosclerosis (plaque inside your arteries) and increase systemic inflammation, not to mention weaken your immune system and put you at risk for contracting any and all manner of viruses and illness.
If negative emotions can do all that, imagine the effect positive emotions have and how regular exercise can help.
“The body produces endorphins, which are chemicals that reduce the perception of pain, improve immunity and help you relax. Endorphins are natural mood boosters that enhance feelings of optimism and satisfaction. Exercise promotes the generation and release of endorphins, while reducing the activity of hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol, which promote feelings of anxiety and tension. Regular exercise can help you attain a happier state of mind and a better quality of life.” – Live Strong
Or, as the great Elle Woods once said:
Biologically speaking she’s right, those endorphins have a lot to do with happiness and exercise but it extends a lot further than that. Researchers at the University of Vermont say that the mood benefits of just 20 minutes of exercise can last up to 12 hours afterwards. TWELVE HOURS.
But how does exercise specifically contribute to happiness? Oh, let me count the ways…
EXERCISE AND HAPPINESS
#1. Improve Your Mental Health
Exercise has incredible effects when it comes to anxiety and depression and general mental health, and is often recommended as part of a solution along with other treatment options like therapy and pharmaceutical interventions. It’s even been shown that exercise can essentially mimic the effects of antidepressants on the brain.
- Exercise releases brain chemicals like neurotransmitters, endorphins, and endocannabinoids that can help alleviate anxiety and depression
- Exercise reduces chemicals in the immune system that can worsen depression
- An increase in body temperature can have a calming effect on the body
Exercise can also be considered a healthy coping mechanism which can lead to an increase in confidence, provide distraction, and even improve your social opportunities and interactions.
#2. Better Sleep
Exercise has been shown to help with chronic insomnia, reduce the amount of time it takes for you to fall asleep, and even possibly help regulate your circadian rhythm as well, thereby improving your quality of sleep and overall number of hours spent sleeping too. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that the more sleep you get, the better your mind and body is able to rest and recharge, ultimately equipping you with enough energy and endurance to tackle the long list of responsibilities and obligations on your everyday list.
Everybody’s busy, we all have stuff to do and we know what it feels like to try and get that stuff done on little or low quality sleep. You’re tired and grumpy, have no energy and hate everyone.
Don’t be like that.
Exercising regularly can help you get good sleep, more sleep, and feel better about yourself and your day.
#3. Improved Social Opportunities And Interactions
Humans are social creatures (for the most part). We like to hang out, eat, dance and party in groups. We operate in family units. We even like to exercise together and there’s good reason for that. Social interactions are necessary, just ask anyone who’s had to spend an extended amount of time alone.
Having a workout partner to hit the gym with or participating in a group fitness class can help motivate you to work harder, try new things you maybe wouldn’t have otherwise, and keep you accountable too. Besides, let’s be real – you’re more likely to show up to the gym if you have someone there waiting for you. Being surrounded by likeminded people who make health and fitness a priority can be such a positive influence in your life. Strong bodies AND strong support systems can be built at the gym.
#4. Improve Your Long-Term Quality Of Life
Ask any doctor or even any random person on the street and they know it’s a fact – people who make fitness a priority live longer, healthier, and better lives. Comb back through all the reasons listed above if you want specifics. The more we make exercise and fitness a priority, the happier we are overall in every aspect of our mental, emotional and physical state at every age.
#5. Look Better – Feel Better Too
Even though our motivation to exercise might initially be fueled by more aesthetic driven goals, most people who make it a part of their daily routine find that the benefits of exercising regularly impact their lives far beyond fitting into their jeans better. Just ask anyone who’s had to give up their gym time for the day in favor of something less engaging, like meetings or appointments. On the flip side, getting your workout in typically means you’re stronger, happier, and left with a sense of accomplishment to carry you through the rest of your day.
The “DUH” Factor
Exercise is important, we all know that, and your happiness and wellbeing are too. While these things are not mutually exclusive to one another, there’s great joy and pride to be found in their relationship together. Yes, sweating your guts out for an hour in spin class can seem like pure torture at the time. But you love it, your body loves it, and you brain loves it too…or else you wouldn’t be there in the first place.
So duh, of course exercise makes you happy.
Go find what you love and get your body moving. Your happiness depends on it and your health does too.
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