06 Sep 7 ways exercise creates happiness
Here at The Happiness Institute we’ve argued for a long time that it’s hard to be happy if you’re literally sick and tired all the time. It is, in contrast, much easier to be happy, and to live an active and fulfilling life, if you’re fit and healthy. So this week we bring you a guest article highlighting the benefits of exercise and how it’s relevant to finding happiness…
Written by Jodie Arnot, Director of Healthy Balance Fitness (www.healthybalancefitness.com.au)
- Natural chemical high _ã_ Exercise is a natural and healthy way to enjoy a _ã–high_ã. Exercise releases endorphins (feel good chemicals in the body) and helps release or _ã–burn off_ã of excess adrenaline which contributes to a stressed or edgy feeling. Serotonin contributes to a range of functions including appetite, libido, sleep and mood. Research has found that regular exercise can alter serotonin levels resulting in improved mood, a sense of well being and reduced levels of depression. The effect of exercise is immediate and can last for up to 12 hours.
- Distraction from worries & stress _ã_ Have you ever been stuck in a cycle of worry where the more you think about the problem, the worse it seems? Or how about stuck in a frustrating day that saps your energy or makes you want to blow your top? Removing yourself from your desk, a stressful home situation or even your own thought patterns and going for a walk, a swim or some other exercise can be an oasis giving you a distraction, relief or perspective.
- Protects against anger _ã_ Exercise, even a single bout of it, has been found to have a robust protective effect against the buildup of anger. A study from the University of Stuttgart, published in the Journal of Exercise & Physiology suggested that if you are likely to be in an anger producing situation some exercise beforehand will help. I recommend energetic forms of exercise like jogging, boxing, boot camp, aerobics to really blow off some steam before a stressful situation.
- Increases energy _ã_ Surprisingly expending some extra energy a few times per week actually leads to increased energy overall, due to an increase in cardiovascular fitness. Having some extra energy up your sleeve will fight fatigue and boost motivation leading to an improved sense of wellbeing.
- Social outlet _ã_ Exercise can be a fun, social outlet. Whether with a personal trainer with whom you have great rapport, a friend or family member you walk or play tennis with, a sports team, an exercise group or class, you_ã_ll have fun, enjoy some laughs and a chat and be reminded that people can be a great source of happiness, support and inspiration.
- Builds confidence and self-esteem _ã_ Feeling fitter and stronger, and knowing that you_ã_re doing something to improve your health is a great confidence builder. I have seen people change from worrying about their appearance or age, to celebrating their new ability, endurance, strength and fitness achievements. Regular exercisers usually view their bodies as capable, rather than flawed.
- Sense of achievement _ã_ Fitness is an excellent arena to set targets and goals and to follow a path to achieving them. Setting your sights on a fitness event or even setting your own target is a great way to have a sense of purpose and then celebrate an accomplishment. It_ã_s a healthy high like no other! You might like to choose a walk, ride or fun run to participate in, or set yourself a target of working up to a certain number of pushups, a number of flights of stairs to walk, or a number of exercise sessions in a month.
If regular exercise seems like a big commitment to fit into an already stressful and busy schedule simply focus on one workout at a time. Remember the mood benefits are immediate!