How Exercise Makes You Happier

Don’t you love that elated, euphoric feeling after running or finishing a workout? Sure, you might be breathless, but you can’t be in a better mood. This isn’t incidental, nor is it just because you love moving around. Exercise produces a chemical effect that has both temporary and long-lasting impacts on our brain, leaving us feeling happier and less stressed.

The Impact of Exercise on Our Brain Chemistry

Studies have linked exercise and cognition throughout the years. And in these studies, there’s always been a consistent conclusion—exercise improves your mood and can fundamentally change your brain both temporarily and over time. So, let’s take a deep dive and get a better understanding.

Releases Endorphins

Studies show that after 20–30 minutes of aerobic exercise, like walking, running, rowing or swimming, your brain releases hormones called endorphins. These chemicals are produced by your central nervous system together with the pituitary gland to inhibit the transmission of pain signals, giving you that positive, upbeat feeling. This will keep you pumped up through your gruelling workout sessions. 

Produces More Mood-Enhancing Chemicals

Physical activity also releases serotonin, BDNF, norepinephrine and dopamine (the pleasure or reward chemical). Combining these hormones enhances your mood and relieves you of both anxiety and depression. You can even have this kick of euphoria stick around for hours.

Decreases Stress Hormones

Exercise also decreases the levels of cortisol and adrenaline in your body. High doses of these chemicals cause stress and anxiety that inhibits enjoyment. As a natural solution for stress, exercise helps people develop mental resilience to face any difficulty with bravery, positivity, and clarity. 

Produces Myokines

When your muscles contract during your exercise, your body produces myokines. This chemical is also responsible for stress release and mood enhancement. But, more importantly, it changes the structure and function of your brain over time. This will help you deal with depression and anxiety disorders, contributing to a well-rounded mind, mental resilience, and a healthier brain.

Hack Your Brain Chemistry

Want to optimise your exercise routine for a great brain boost? These are our tips.

Exercise Outdoors

You can reap more benefits from exercise if you do it outdoors. According to a 2013 study, exercising in nature will elevate your mood and self-esteem. At the same time, it reduces negative emotions, such as depression, tension, and anger. In another study, doing your exercise outdoors can have the same effects as a meditation session on the brain, as it induces a state of open awareness. You’ll be surprised how a simple walk or run outside can easily give you instant relief as it helps your mind shift to a meditative state without any effort.

Do Group Aerobic Exercises

All types of exercise are beneficial, but aerobic activities like running, biking, and swimming seem to give the most brain benefits. These cardio exercises are most efficient and best enjoyed outdoors with friends. Nature can provide more challenging trails, and the fresh air can motivate you to push further. Plus, your mood will improve when you’re around people you enjoy spending time with.

Join a Sports League

Exercise improves your mood and helps you connect with other people. Engaging your muscles and getting your heart rate up does something to your brain chemistry, making it easier for you to connect and trust others. This is evident when you play sports. The camaraderie gives you a sense of belonging and teamwork, significantly influencing your happiness. Moreover, working in groups can give you an extra boost of confidence, which stems from collaboration and a shared sense of accomplishment.

Exercise for a Happier, Healthier You

No matter what type of physical activity you do, exercise can significantly boost your mood. How about doing something you enjoy the most to give you a more leisurely start on your fitness journey? Remember, doing something is better than nothing. So what are you waiting for? Put on your sneakers and start stretching!

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