Exercise benefits more than just your body—it positively impacts your brain, too. Although it can sometimes be hard to find the motivation to work out, it’s rare not to feel great afterwards! In particular, cardiovascular workouts are great for boosting health and happiness. Incorporating 30 to 60 minutes of exercise three to five times per Read on to learn more about why we feel good after a workout!
What Exercise Does to the Brain
Exercise boosts your mood because it produces fundamental changes to your brain, both while you’re working out and after you’re done. When you exercise, your heart rate increases, and your body pumps more oxygen to your brain. That process can affect your overall positivity and outlook on life.
Short-Term Benefits: Exercise produces some immediate benefits that make you feel happier. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins are hormones are produced by the central nervous system and the pituitary gland. Their main job is to inhibit the transmission of pain signals, but they also produce feelings of euphoria, commonly referred to as a “runner’s high”. This is what makes you feel happier instantly, and the effects will last even after your workout is over. While exercising, your body also produces serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine (the reward chemical). These chemicals work to create a sense of well-being and the ability to deal with stress in a positive way. Exercise also helps to reduce the levels of cortisol and adrenaline in the body, both of which can cause stress when released in high doses.
Long-Term Benefits: Exercise can change the structure and function of your brain over time, helping preserve brain function and prevent cognitive decline, which will make it easier to maintain a happier outlook on life. Exercise may also generate new neurons in the hippocampus, the region of the brain associated with memory, learning, and emotions. Because the hippocampus manages your emotions, optimizing it could help you feel more emotionally stable in the long term.
What Kinds of Exercise Are Best for Happiness?
Cardio exercise produces the most endorphins and other feel-good chemicals, but you don’t have to only focus on cardiovascular work to get some mood-boosting benefits. Strength training has also been shown to reduce anxiety and depression and has the added benefit of increasing your self-esteem. You can also try yoga, which produces some of the same positive effects as cardio and strength-training, with the added benefit of learning how to relax and quiet your mind.
The most important thing is to find an exercise that works for you. We’re far more likely to stick to something if we enjoy it, and doing something is better than doing nothing at all. Regular exercise combined with other healthy practices like getting enough sleep, eating well, and nurturing positive relationships will help guarantee your body and brain stay healthy and happy for a long time!