by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner
Want to get your mood into better shape? Try 30 minutes of exercise …
Most committed exercisers insist they work out for mental as well as physical benefits. Being fit helps us cope with everyday stress, avoid chronic stress, and generally be happier. After a few weeks of regular exercise, you start to notice this lighter mood (even if you aren’t yet lighter on the scale). Exercise becomes a quest for happiness as much as skinny jeans.
If you have not yet experienced the euphoria of a good workout, you may wonder how challenging yourself to the point of sweat and fatigue brings on a happy face. Several factors are at work:
Chemistry. Endorphins are released during exercise. These stimulate the brain and decrease feelings of pain, helping you feel content. Stress, anxiety, and anger trigger cortisol levels in the body to increase. A workout combats this stress hormone and decreases its presence in the body. It helps eliminate the unhealthy state of chronically raised cortisol levels that contribute to everything from belly fat to heart disease.
The effect of exercise on body chemistry is powerful. Exercise, along with talk therapy, is sometimes used to decrease mild anxiety and depression in place of prescription medication. Those undergoing treatment for such issues may find a fitness program complements traditional therapies.
Energy. Exercise can energize even the sleep deprived. It improves the flow of oxygen and blood throughout your body and brain to give you a lift. The next time you feel sluggish, try a brisk 20-minute walk. The fresh air, combined with the activity, is reviving. Then, you will have energy for the stuff that makes you happiest, whether playing a little b-ball, laughing with your kids, or managing to read without falling asleep.
Sleep. An exercised body is a body that rests well. A workout pushes the body to a healthy level of fatigue. Combined with the reduction of stress and tension, those who work out tend to enjoy consistently better sleep.
The quality of sleep usually improves, along with the ability to fall asleep more easily and stay comfortable throughout the night. You aren’t taking tight, tense muscles to bed with you to stiffen up as you stay immobile. (Of course, this does not apply to those with a poor mattress or snoring partner.)
How we sleep improves mental outlook every single day. Quality rest leaves you refreshed. It helps reduce the tendency toward depressed mood that often accompanies exhaustion. Eight good hours does not guarantee happiness, but it sure helps you cope better.
Confidence. Taking action to improve yourself adds value to self-worth. Often, before changes are reflected in the mirror, one develops a strength from within. Accomplishing a challenging workout, whatever that may be for you as an individual, builds self-esteem which leads to overall contentment. Recognizing our strength and resilience promotes a happier disposition, one that is more accepting of self and others.
Health. There are myriad ways exercise improves physical and mental health. It can improve health issues like poor cholesterol and high blood pressure, along with eliminating medication these may require and their negative side-effects. Exercise also helps prevent health conditions and diseases, many serious in nature. Frequently, we take our health for granted. However, in its absence, we quickly know its tremendous impact—not only on our body but our mind.
The mind-body connection is powerful. We must nurture both to be truly well. Exercise is a great nurturer with many positive effects.
Moderate aerobic exercise can quickly improve your mood. Aim for 30 minutes. Weightlifting, running, swimming, cycling, and other cardio activities have the biggest impact on the happiness effect. Studies show the effect can last up to 12 hours. In as little as two weeks, studies show regular exercise can create positive chemical changes on a consistent basis. This may cause you to actually crave more exercise because, after all, who doesn’t want to be happy.
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