- Exercise & Fitness
3 Significant Ways Exercises Makes Us Happier
Does exercise make us happier?
Short answer: Sure does! Why? Let's take a look.
Exercise Sculpts A Happier, Healthier You
When a majority of people start an exercise program, they're doing it with a particular goal in mind: improving their physical health. This can be translated a multitude of ways, whether it be losing body fat, improving cardiovascular fitness, building muscle, or training for an athletic event—it all circles back to improving the physical body.
But there's an aspect to exercise many people don't consider when they first begin. It's something that can't be understated and that makes the act of physical exercise all the more beneficial and appealing. Besides making you slimmer, stronger and healthier, what's this magical bonus factor to working out? Well, simply put...exercise makes you happier.
1. Happy Neurotransmitters
This is the one most people have heard of in one way or another. Exercise...yadda, yadda...endorphins...yadda, yadda...energy boost...yeah, we get it. But let's take a closer look here. What is the brain busy with up there while we're sweating it out?
Neuroscientist Judy Cameron, PhD., explains that the increase in blood flow and circulation that occurs when you exercise affects the brain, helping brain cells to perform more efficiently. Once you start exercising, you raise your heart rate and increase blood flow and oxygen intake. This gives you a kick of neurotransmitters: endorphins, dopamine, glutamate, serotonin and norepinephrine.
Endorphins are released by the brain to buffer the physical discomfort of exercise. They help quiet pain signals, making physical activity easier to complete. Dopamine counters stress and fights depression. Serotonin elevates your mood and helps regulate sleep patterns and appetite. So, when you start exercising, you get rewarded with a big whack of happy chemicals flooding your brain and body.
Here's a contributor to brain health during exercise that's not as common knowledge: BDNF.
BDNF stands for brain-derived neurotrophic factor. During exercise, the brain encourages nerve cells to release proteins. These proteins are called neurotrophic factors. The one we're interested in is BDNF.
What does this protein do? It helps brain stem cells to convert into new neurons. It simultaneously repairs memory neurons and protects them from any future damage. Essentially, this fantastic protein is helping your brain heal and protect itself!
Feeling sapped? Forget the coffee run. Hop on a treadmill instead!
I know it sounds backwards, believe me. How can you gain energy by expending it? Nutritionist Samantha Heller, MS, RD, states:
"Contrary to popular belief, exercising doesn't make you tired — it literally creates energy in your body. It all begins with tiny organs called mitochondria. Located in our cells, they work like tiny power plants to produce energy. The more you exercise aerobically, the more mitochondria the body makes to produce more energy to meet your needs, which is one reason how — and why — regular cardiovascular exercise actually creates more available energy for your body."
There you have it. Exercise increases your mitochondria count. More mitochondria? More energy. More energy with a healthier, better protected brain and a bunch of depression fighting, smile-inducing neurochemicals floating around in it too. Exercise is superb not just for your physical fitness but for your brain, mood and energy levels too.
Bouchez, Colette. Exercise for Energy: Workouts That Work. http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/exercise-for-energy-workouts-that-work
Klein, Sarah. This Is What Happens To Your Body When You Exercise. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/04/body-on-exercise-what-happens-infographic_n_3838293.html
Dr. Mercola. Physical Exercise Boosts Your Brain Power in 20 Minutes, Helps Stop Brain Shrinkage. http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2012/05/18/exercise-benefits-brain-health.aspx
Stryker, Krista. 7 Surprising Ways Exercise Can Make You Happier. http://www.12minuteathlete.com/exercise-and-happiness/
Widrich, Leo. What Happens To Our Brains When We Exercise And How It Makes Us Happier. http://www.fastcompany.com/3025957/work-smart/what-happens-to-our-brains-when-we-exercise-and-how-it-makes-us-happier