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How Does Exercise Make You Happy?

If you love a good gym session or follow an exercise program, you’ll notice how great you feel after each workout.


Why is this? Well, exercising has many benefits for your mental and physical health! In fact, it’s one of the most effective ways to improve your mood and overall well-being.


Let’s chat about all the ways exercise makes you happy and discuss how much exercise you need.


How Does Exercise Make You Happy? Here Are 11 Ways!


How does exercise make you happy?


1. Exercising Improves Your Mood


People who exercise regularly report a significant boost in their mood after working out. This boosting mood effect is best explained by chemical changes that occur in the brain.


Exercise increases the levels of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine. These happy brain chemicals are responsible for your good mood, feelings of pleasure, and overall sense of well-being.


You might be interested in happiness chemicals and how to hack them to learn other ways to increase your happy neurotransmitters.


how does exercise make you happy


2. Exercising Reduces Your Stress And Anxiety Levels


In addition to impacting neurotransmitter levels, exercise also helps to reduce stress hormones, such as cortisol. When left unchecked, cortisol can wreak havoc on your body and mind, leading to negative effects, such as anxiety, weight gain, and insomnia.


Exercise is a great way to reduce stress because it helps to clear your mind while also providing a distraction from whatever is causing your stress.


That’s why when you’re stressed, you’ll often hear people tell you, ‘take a walk and calm down.’


3. Exercising Increases Your Mental Resilience


One of the main reasons many people don’t exercise is because it’s not a part of their routine or habits. That’s because it’s not easy to start a new habit!


Do you know what happens when you continue to exercise despite not loving how intense it can feel? You overcome a huge mental block, which improves your mental resilience.


Exercising involves a lot of goal setting. Every time you overcome challenges to achieve these goals, you build mental resilience. This increased mental resilience will help you in all areas of your life, not just when working out.


Man on couch


4. Exercising Makes You More Positive


Have you ever thought that you just want to be happy? Well, exercise is a great component to add to your day.


If you’re feeling down, one of the best things you can do is get moving. Exercise has an uncanny ability to shift your focus from negative to positive.


Instead of dwelling on what’s stressing you out, exercise gives you the chance to focus on something else entirely. It allows you to clear your mind and recenter yourself.


Exercise also helps to increase levels of endorphins. Endorphins are hormones that interact with receptors in the brain to produce a positive and uplifting feeling, sometimes referred to as a “runner’s high.”


5. Exercising Increases Your Energy Levels


It may seem counterintuitive, but exercising actually provides you with more energy. Experts advise that if you want your day to be productive, you should exercise in the morning. How does this happen?


When you’re exercising, you’re engaging your muscles. And the more you engage your muscles, the more fuel they’ll need to work efficiently. This fuel comes from the food you eat, which is broken down into glucose and glycogen.


Exercise helps to increase your energy levels by making your body more efficient at breaking down these nutrients so that they can be used as fuel.


Exercise also improves your heart and lung health, making it more efficient to deliver oxygen where it’s needed. Your capacity to engage your mind and body for longer periods improves, and you’re less likely to feel fatigued.


So, the next time you exercise, check your energy levels and see if you’ll notice that extra spring in your steps.


6. Exercising Helps You Sleep Better


Getting enough sleep is important for your overall health. It can help improve your mood, memory, and focus. It can also help reduce stress and anxiety levels.


Studies show that exercise can help you sleep better, especially if you’re suffering from insomnia. Exercise improves the quality of your sleep and helps you fall asleep faster.


Man sleeping


7. Exercising Improves Your Memory


One of the cognitive benefits of exercise is that it can help to improve your memory, especially as you get older.


Aerobic exercises, such as walking, running, and swimming, have been shown to be the most effective at improving memory and cognitive function.


These activities cause changes in the part of the brain responsible for memory and thinking, known as the hippocampus.


Exercise has also been shown to improve memory by increasing levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is a protein that helps to support the survival of nerve cells and promotes the growth and differentiation of new ones.


So, if you’re looking for ways to improve your memory, or even prevent cognitive decline as you age, start adding some aerobic exercise to your routine!


8. Exercising Improves Your Self-Confidence


If there’s one great way to boost your self-esteem, it’s exercise! Exercising makes you realize that your body is powerful and capable of incredible things.


If you want to know how to be happy with your body, exercise is a great place to start! It will show you that your body is much more than social media might make you believe.


As you start to see your body change and become stronger, your self-confidence will also grow.


Regular exercise has been shown to improve self-esteem and body image in both adults and children. In one study, sedentary adults who started a new exercise program reported significant improvements in their body satisfaction in just 12 weeks.


Children and adolescents who are physically active also tend to have higher self-esteem and body satisfaction. So, if you’re looking for ways to improve your self-confidence, start moving your body!


Confident woman


9. Exercising Improves Your Immune System


Exercise also has the ability to improve your immune system. A recent meta-analysis found that people who exercised regularly had lower risks of hospitalization and death from COVID-19 and a lower likelihood of getting COVID at all.


The theory is that exercise increases the circulation of immune cells, which helps the body to fight off infection more effectively. People who exercise also have lower chronic inflammation, which further reduces the risk of infection.


So, start adding some exercise to your daily routine to boost your immune system and protect yourself from getting sick. A healthy you is a happy you!


10. Exercising Helps You Age Gracefully


If you want to age gracefully, you need to move your body! Why? Because regular exercise helps your body age at a slower rate. Here’s what regular exercise also does for you as you grow older:


  • It enhances your muscle strength.
  • It increases your bone density.
  • It improves your cognition.
  • It helps you maintain soft and glowing skin.
  • It boosts your metabolism.
  • It improves your flexibility and posture.


By exercising, you look and feel younger. By staying fit, you can continue engaging in physical activities you enjoy.


Woman relaxing


11. Group Exercises Can Strengthen Your Social Connections


You don’t have to exercise alone! You can ask your friends to join you when engaging in moderate exercise like taking a brisk walk, bicycling, or hiking.


Working out in a group will give you the same health benefits as solo exercising. However, group exercising has one significant advantage.


You can form new social connections or strengthen existing ones!


We highly recommend group exercises if you struggle to make exercise a fun part of your daily routine. Joining a group will not only help you make new friends, but these new friends will also help you remain accountable for your fitness goals.


What a great way to cultivate relationships and stay healthy!


How Much Exercise Do You Need To Boost Your Mood?


Most health experts suggest engaging in 15 to 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as walking, biking, or gardening, five days a week for a total of 150 minutes a week.


Don’t feel like you have to go from zero to 60 minutes a day overnight. If you start slowly and gradually work up to your goal, you’re more likely to stay consistent. And even if you miss a day here and there, don’t sweat it. Just get back on track the next day. Small wins add up over time!


Man playing tennis


The truth is that the exercise dosage required for you to boost your mood is actually much lower. For example, walking around your neighborhood for five minutes will boost your mood significantly. So, for a better mood, all you need is to get out there and move your body.


Moreover, for your exercise goals to be sustainable, engage in physical activity that you love! Following an exercise program is great, but not necessary. If you want to hula-hoop for a while, go for it! Any physical activity is better than none.


Do You Need To Exercise Outdoors To Reap The Benefits?


Exercising outdoors is better than indoors because there are benefits to being outside in general. (Read more about “why does being outside make you happy?”)


However, we’ll say it again – any exercise is better than no exercise! There are plenty of great ways to exercise indoors that people love and partake in regularly. Yoga, strength training, and running around an indoor track are just a few examples.


You don’t need to exercise outdoors to be happier. As long as your body is moving and you’re applying stress to your muscles, you’ll reap the rewards of exercising.


woman doing yoga


Final Thoughts


Exercise is essential for good mental health and our overall well-being. The benefits of exercise are far-reaching and impact every aspect of our lives.


Exercising and happiness go hand in hand! If you’re not feeling so great, getting up and moving your body will help improve your mood. And if you’re already happy, exercise will help you maintain that good feeling.


We built the Do Happy App to help you build positive habits and live a happier life. It includes an accountability calendar that helps you track your tasks and remain accountable for your happiness.


Make exercise a part of your regular self-care routine by partaking in a self-care challenge of exercising 3 times a week. Download the app and try it out today!