Exercise is a power tool when it comes to improving and boosting our mood. Here are 5 ways that exercise helps us to feel happy.
- Release of feel good, happy hormones
Exercise releases hormones such as endorphins, dopamine and serotonin and helps combat the release of cortisol – the stress hormone. These ‘happy’ hormones improve our mood and are accountable for the elevated state we experience post exercise.
- Reduction of stress, anxiety and depression
Exercising regularly (3 or more times a week for 20 minutes or longer) reduces the release of cortisol (stress hormone) which in turn can lessen your stress levels and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Exercise is also proven to help boost self-esteem and self-confidence. There is no better feeling than achieving a fitness goal whether that is time, weight or distance based in terms of physical capability or perhaps changes to your physical appearance. Exercise makes us feel good about ourselves and our self-confidence improves in parallel.
- Promotes feelings of belonging and connection
Community is integral to our mental well-being. Feeling that we belong to a group and having a network of people around us helps us to feel safe and connected to others. Attending group exercise classes, joining team sports and frequenting other physical activity groups helps build connections to others and in turn can reduce any feelings of loneliness and isolation. We all need to feel connected to others – we are human after all!
- Improves memory
Exercise pumps blood to the brain – the increase in oxygen, chemicals and hormones reaching the brain can help us to think more clearly. This in turn increases the size of the hippocampus which is embedded deep in the temporal lobe, the part of the brain responsible for memory. Exercise helps to also increase the connections between the nerve cells in the brain. This improves your memory and helps protect your brain against injury and disease. Evidence suggests that exercise could help prevent memory loss problems that come with normal ageing, as well as dementia.
- Improves focus
Exercise enhances your brain function for up to 2-3 hours post completion according to Dr John Ratey. This accounts for why we feel so elevated in mood after a workout. Have you ever noticed that you’re more focused at work after a morning or lunchtime workout? This is the reason why. Great if you have a big deadline to meet or a busy day ahead. If you feel your concentration is flagging, even a 5 minute walk can get the blood moving and the circulation pumping enough to re-feed your brain with the chemicals and hormones it needs to refocus you on the task at hand.
Author: Laura Stembridge, MSc, CEO InsideOut
Date: 22nd March, 2020