Exercise and Be Happy!
As a personal trainer, I use this phrase on a regular basis with my clients because it’s true: exercise changes the brain…in a good way.
There are reasons why a workout positively impacts your mental outlook and most experts will agree that better circulation, reduced inflammation, and exposure to the environment are all direct and indirect factors that enhance mental health.
When was the last time you were in a bad mood? Do you remember what caused it? Some of us get moody over past issues, some of us get upset over little things, and still some of us may not know where the grumpiness came from at all. It was just the other day when I felt like I got up on the wrong side of the bed and had no idea why.
There is interesting research on exercise that involves neurobiology, the study of how physical activity directly affects brain chemistry. Performing some type of exercise can cause changes in the neurochemicals that affect mood. This release of “happy chemicals”, like dopamine, into your brain increases the feelings of pleasure and happiness.
Other chemicals released when you exercise are endorphins. They interact with the receptors in your brain the same way morphine does. This is because they act like analgesics, which simply means they diminish the perception of pain.
I don’t know about you, but I think I’ll head out for a run right about now!
One of the largest studies ever conducted was with a group of 121,000 nurses who were surveyed on their lifestyle habits in 1976. The survey was repeated every two years and the information is still being looked at today. The results of the study were published in The Journal of the American Medical Association which showed that the group who walked for six hours a week were 20 percent less likely to show cognitive impairment than the group that walked less. Another study showed that greater amounts of exercise were associated with greater brain volume.
Super cool science, but what it boils down to is: exercise and be happy.
If happiness isn’t enough to get you out of your chair, remember that being physically active also means less stress, more confidence, more energy, less anxiety and a phenomenal night’s rest.
There really isn’t one “greatest or best” type of exercise. Choose one you like doing so you can look forward to the activity. If you hate running, don’t run. If you have two left feet, aerobic dance may not be the best choice. But, there is something for everyone, just take some time to figure out what is best (and most fun!) for you.
Don’t know where to start? Try walking.
Early in my fitness career I was introduced to a different type of walking: walking meditation. I enjoyed the process of learning how to slow down and become mindful.
Just like eating, we need to become more aware. This exercise is another method to bring calm to the mind, body, and soul.
The average American today manages less than 5,000 steps a day when ideally we should be walking over 10,000 steps. There is growing evidence suggesting that walking really is one of the best exercises you can do for your body and your mood.
So follow in the footsteps of some famous walkers and see what clarity it brings to your life. Charles Dickens used to rack up to 30 miles a day. Beethoven wandered around Vienna where the influence of his walks is heard in his 6th Symphony. More recently, Steve Jobs was known to walk all the time, and Mark Zuckerberg is fond of holding walking meetings.
Bottom line is move. Exercise is good for us in so many ways. What are you waiting for? There isn’t a good excuse not to, especially when the outcome is happiness.