Exercise makes you happy

By Angela Bentley

Date: January 2016

This shouldn’t come as a surprise but the best way to stay happy or get happy is definitely EXERCISE…  Though it offers many health benefits (exercise is medicine), one of the main reasons that I exercise is simply its effect on my mood. This article will examine why exercise makes you happy and the best forms of exercise for mood enhancement.


What causes that happy feeling?

Although we may not have much on our mind when we are exercising, our brains are actually very busy. When we start exercising our brain perceives that the heart-rate changes occurring must be due to stress (maybe you’re running away from danger) and it tries to help out by releasing the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine among others1, 2, 3. A summary of how their roles affect your mood is described in the image below, but the bottom-line is that they make you feel good.

The stress and pain of exercising also brings about the release of endorphins, otherwise known as the “happy hormone”. These feel-good molecules have a similar effect to that of pain-killers and are associated with a feeling of euphoria, pleasure and general well-being4, 5.

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Other reasons why exercise makes you happy1, 10:

  • It helps to energize us
  • It helps us to sleep better
  • It relieves stress
  • It eases anxiety
  • It improves self-confidence and appearance
  • It improves our immune systems
  • It reduces depression
  • It helps you to be more social
  • It gets you outdoors
  • It improves memory and brain power

How much exercise and what type?

Since the effects of exercise on happiness, productivity and memory are largely acute; your focus here should be more on frequency than duration. It seems that the most important factors influencing these aspects are that you work out regularly… but findings are more positive if you have worked out on the particular day that research is carried out5, 6. The guideline derived from this research is that we should get 20 minutes of focused exercise everyday”5. Although extending these sessions to 30-60 minutes per day can provide further health benefits7, 8.

According to 2010 research, high-energy aerobic activity such as running, cycling or swimming reduced depression more than less intense exercise7, 9. However, an integrated workout schedule of 3-5 days of aerobic exercise and at least 2 days of resistance training with at least 10 minutes of stretching at each aerobic and strength session is what is recommended by exerciseismedicine.org for reducing anxiety and depression8. Resistance exercise helps us to function better and improves self-esteem, while stretch and balance exercises such as yoga and tai chi help with mind and body relaxation and stress-relief 8, 9.

One of the great things about exercise is that it needn’t cost much, if anything at all, and its benefits are clearly substantial. So the next time you’re feeling a little down try go for a run, not only will it clear your mind but it’ll make you feel great! Remember though to recover well with FUTURELIFE® HIGH PROTEIN Smart Food, or FUTURELIFE® Smart Drink, ensuring to keep those energy levels up for the remainder of the day.