Why does exercise make you happy? Everyone says it does but what is really happening? Turns out there are several layers to the function in which training can help you feel better about yourself and the world as such.
1. Dopamine release
When we exercise the body releases happy chemicals, namely endorphins and dopamine. Since exercises is seen as stress, the body helps you through a tough time by masking the unpleasantness of training via said endorphins. You get that benefit during the first 20 minutes, The key is to often train such as in daily. First thing in the am being ideal.
If you can not get it early, try to schedule it before important meetings of the day and watch your performance you through the roof!
2. Training fights stress by stressing you
Exercising is a low level stress environment since cortisol is elevated and you find yourself in a fight or flight state when competing on the basketball court or lifting heavy weights.
If you subject yourself to stressful situation which you can control, your bodies ability to handle stress hormones nor epinephrine surges and cortisol surges will improve.
Studies show that any type of exercise is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall cognitive function. This can be especially helpful when stress has depleted your energy or ability to concentrate.
Exercising will also enhance your sleep which is critical when dealing with a stressful environment
3. It relieves anxiety
Exercise can help with common issues that are often caused by nervousness and anxiety.
First, exercise can help reduce muscular and neurological tightness and tension held throughout the body which serves as a form of relaxation.
Second, regular exercise assists in producing endorphins, the body’s natural mood-enhancing chemical that is responsible for fighting of pain and stress.
Third, studies have shown that exercise decreases a person’s sensitivity to the body’s reaction to anxiety, as well as decreases the intensity and frequency of panic attacks in some cases. The reason for that you will get better at handling stress since you experienced it more often aka you trained for it.
Last, since you are burning off nervous energy when training thereby having fewer stress hormones that occur from exercise may help improve one’s sense of well-being overall
4. It gives you a feeling of being in control
That is the big one in my opinion. The world can be a scary and uncertain place but 100 lbs will always be 100lbs. In other words, the one place where you are in charge is shaping your body. That feeling of control is very empowering and it spills over in other areas of your life as well. If I can lose 20 lbs, maybe I can get promoted?
Or maybe I gather to confidence to switch careers?
Creating something lasting is a tremendous confidence builder and the gym can become your anchor in troubling times. When my mother was ill, I felt the world came crashing down around me. Training for a bodybuilding competition was the one thing that kept me sane since it organized my days for me and gave me purpose.
Only if you feel good about yourself will you be able to do good for others.
While happiness isn’t a scientific concept, it stands to reason that exercise does help with what can stand in the way of well-being namely stress and anxiety relief. Aside from those rather short term relief modalities, there is the long term effects of being better prepared to deal with stressful situations and the knowledge to be in control.
While the short term benefits such as stress relief and less anxiety can be harvested in as little as 20 minutes, it should be noted that frequency is key. In order to fully get the benefit of exercise you should train almost daily with a goal oriented approach. Reaching goals will help tremendously with confidence and self-esteem which is critical on your path to happiness