Move Your Body: Does Exercise Increase Happiness?

Ever notice how a quick dance break can boost your mood?

It's true. Dance break, a quick walk around the block, even a few jumping jacks.  When you’re having a bad day, or are feeling down, one easy way to increase your happiness, may be to exercise.

For many of us, our current lifestyles are fairly sedentary, even our kids.  This lack of movement can actually cause us to feel more tired, less motivated and at times, even unhappy. There is a strong link between exercise and an improvement in mood and well-being. Give it a try. Go for a 30 minute walk whenever you’re feeling depressed and unhappy. You’ll notice your mood starting to increase throughout the walk. As you get back, you may notice that you’ve feeling even happier.

This increase of happiness and well-being after exercise is caused by two different mechanisms in our body. The first is that exercise causes the release of brain chemicals like endorphins and other mood enhancers. This happens just a few minutes after you work out and the effect can last for a good 12 hours. The second part to the equation is that exercise also helps reduce the levels of stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline in the body. That means you’ll instantly feel less stressed. This one-two punch can have a powerful effect on how you feel. Something as simple as a brisk walk can help you feel better almost immediately.

For best results you want to exercise a few times per week.  Take some time during your lunch break to go for a walk, or work a quick workout in before you head to work in the morning. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you start moving around and get that blood pumping. Pick activities you enjoy that you will stick with. For an added boost, take a walk with someone you care about and use the time to enhance connection as well.

In addition to the everyday mood booster you get from exercising regularly, there are quite a few additional long term benefits. Exercise is good for your health and you will start to get fitter and even slimmer and more toned if you stick with it. This in turn will improve how you feel and how you feel about yourself. That added confidence can be a great additional mood booster.

For best results, try to get as much exercise as you can outside. Fresh air and sunshine add to a feeling of well-being and depending on your location and some other factors, the vitamin deficiency that comes from lack of outside activity can aggravate mood issues.. Come up with some simple things you can start doing right now. Maybe it’s going for a walk each afternoon. Maybe it’s taking up jogging. Maybe it’s signing up for a yoga or Pilate’s class at your local community center, or maybe it’s joining a basketball team. It doesn’t matter what you choose to do as long as you make it a goal to get more active and move around. Switch it up and plan a group hike for the weekend, or dust off your bike. There’s a lot of fun ways to move around and enjoy the world around you.