There are many people who dread the idea of exercise and can’t imagine that it can actually make you happy. From my years of experience training and coaching, I have seen first hand how exercise can make you happy. There are several studies by the American College of Sports Medicine, Penn State University and The National Institute of Mental Health that support this theory as well.
You may be asking “So why would exercise make me happy?” When we exercise or do activities our brain releases dopamine, a chemical that acts as a natural painkiller and also helps to stimulate emotions of pleasure and happiness. A chemical called Endorphins, which help to fight stress and block pain, are also released.
In several studies, researchers have also recognized that two particular areas of the brain, responsible for processing emotions and handling feelings of fear and anxiety, have increased brain activity after exercising. This indicates that exercise can contribute to less anxiety and happier emotions.
Numerous times I have started to train someone who was stressed and overwhelmed with a situation. Once we have completed our exercise session I consistently see them transform into a more relaxed, calm and happy state. What appeared overwhelming prior to our session always seems more manageable once they can think more rationally about the situation. I truly enjoy watching people transition into this new state of mind.
When I exercise I feel as if I am doing an active meditation, using movement and breathing to move my energy and free my mind of any stress or anxiety. I also experience this transition to a healthier, happier state of mind. As a father of four children ranging from ages 13 to 22, I have always included activity and exercise as part of my children’s lives as well. I continue to see how their behavior improves, their confidence levels increase, they can concentrate and focus better (making them better students), and they are happier overall.
Besides being happier, here are some other great benefits of exercise:
• Improves confidence levels that can transfer over to work performance, school performance, and sports performance
• Reduces anxiety
• Boosts energy levels
• Eases irritability
• Helps to build muscle and develop physical and mental stamina
• Improves level of patience
• Makes daily activities like climbing stairs or getting in and out of your car easier
• Reduces disease risk such as high blood pressure and diabetes
• Improves sleep quality
• Improves focus and concentration
• Creates a more relaxed state of mind
You may be wondering how much exercise or activity is necessary to experience all of these benefits. Research has shown that exercising three times per week for at least 20 minutes can help you hit all of these benefits. There doesn’t have to be a set formula for which days or how much time you spend exercising, but pay attention to your stress levels. When you feel stressed or a little down, take some time to enjoy your favorite physical activity.
Whether you choose to exercise with weights, take a fitness class, go for a walk, run, or swim, you can be sure you are on your way to adding a little happiness to your life. Remember to include the children in your life in your activities and everyone will be a little happier and healthier.