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Today is the International Day of Happiness, and what better time is there to discuss what makes you happy? Now, you’ve read the title. You know why we’re here, and your worries are already clear. Yes, exercising is exhausting, and it gets you all sweaty, and it’s just generally difficult to do. Our senior Brisbane exercise physiologist, Brendan McCann, explores endorphins and 7 reasons exercise makes us happy.

We’ve all been there before. Outside of the gym and too afraid to go in. Or just finishing your first workout and thinking that there is no way you can possibly keep this up. It’s exhausting, and these thoughts can really impede your ability to keep going.

But your mental health is nothing to take lightly, and if all it takes to feel a little better is getting out a bit more, isn’t it worth a shot? If you aren’t convinced, below we’ll highlight some of the most prominent benefits of exercise.

Happy person holding a happy face

How Does Exercise Make Us Happier?

Researchers from Dartmouth College’s Department of Psychology and Neuroscience have found that frequent exercise helps people to be more productive and generally happier during the workday. But how? Everyone has heard that exercise ‘releases endorphins’, but the explanation stops there. There is never any elaboration as to what that means, or how it happens.

When you exercise, your brain generally thinks you are having a ‘fight or flight’ moment. You’re either fighting a predator or fleeing from them. Due to this, your brain tries its best to reduce the stress on you during these moments. Firstly, you release endorphins which are meant to minimise your discomfort while exercising and block the pain from your muscles during the act.

At the same time, your brain releases another chemical, a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). The purpose of this protein is to protect your brain from stress, and it acts as somewhat of a reset switch for your memory neurons. This means that once you have finished exercising, you feel much better as your brain thinks that you have escaped from a stressful or dangerous scenario.

What Are Endorphins?

Endorphins are neurotransmitters that transfer signals from one neuron to the next. They are produced by the brain in response to various stimuli, most prominently stress, pain or fear. Enter in exercise, an act that can be painful and that your brain thinks is stressful, and you’ll find that it creates a great many endorphins.

Endorphins are in part responsible for feelings of pleasure, and through positive feedback loops encourage us to continue doing things that our body deems helpful.

This is helpful because endorphins interact with receptors in parts of the brain that help with blocking pain and controlling emotion. Endorphins are in part responsible for feelings of pleasure, and through positive feedback loops encourage us to continue doing things that our body deems helpful.

Man and woman with prosthetic leg smiling after disability exercise for happiness Sunshine Coast

How Exercise Makes Us Happier

It Fights Disease

From heart disease to high blood pressure, exercise is a great way of preventing disease or even keeping those you may already have in check. Metabolic health treatments are available for obesity reduction, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia and other chronic conditions.

Staying active boosts HDL (“good” cholesterol) and decreases unhealthy triglycerides. Both of these help to keep your blood flowing properly, which is a huge factor in decreasing your likelihood of contracting cardiovascular diseases.

Exercising regularly can help manage or entirely prevent an array of health issues. This includes high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, anxiety, depression, stroke, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, and even some kinds of cancer. It can also help with cognitive function and lowers your risk of death from many causes.

It Releases Endorphins

Now that you know what endorphins are and why they are so important, it is good to note that exercise is a great way to release more into your brain. This is a scientifically proven method of cheering yourself up as that is more or less what these neurotransmitters are made for.

It Helps Manage Stress

If you’re feeling stressed or down, exercise is a great way to reboot your brain. Not only does the BDNF help reset some of the chemicals in your brain, your brain is far more active during exercise as well. This helps stimulate various brain chemicals that will have you feeling more content, relaxed and less anxious in no time.

Not to mention the possible positive effects on your self-esteem. The productivity in and of itself may help boost your confidence and opinion of yourself over time.

It Boosts Energy

Exercise helps deliver oxygen and nutrients to your body tissue, and with enough commitment makes your cardiovascular system more efficient. After a period of consistent exercising, your heart and lungs will improve which will give you more energy to put towards your daily life.

Exercise Helps You Sleep Better

If you have trouble sleeping at night, you might not be active enough. Regular exercise can help you sleep easier, and more intensely. However, exercising too close to your bedtime may end up giving you too much energy which will keep you up at night, so be careful with when you exercise.

Exercise to Prevent or Reduce Obesity

A study in 2015 shows that 63.4 percent of adults in Australia were overweight or obese at the time. Obesity can cause many problems in your daily life. Not only are you more likely to contract a variety of diseases and illnesses, obesity often comes hand in hand with certain mental health and self-esteem issues as well.

Obese woman exercising to be happy

Daily exercise and proper dietary habits will help your mental state, your physical wellbeing, and your cardiovascular health all in one fell swoop.

Exercise for obesity reduction is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself, and it is scientifically proven that you will start to feel better mentally on the way down. Daily exercise and proper dietary habits will help your mental state, your physical wellbeing, and your cardiovascular health all in one fell swoop. Read our earlier article about obesity for more information about this serious condition.

Ready to speak to an exercise physiologist about a treatment plan? Whether you’d like to get back in shape or have a medical condition that could be improved by exercise, explore our various metabolic treatments.

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