Most people start their fitness journey because they want to feel more confident with their appearance or physical capabilities. And while there’s no doubt that working out puts you in the best shape of your life, it’s the mental benefits that gets everyone hooked.
See, once you start working out, there’s something almost magical that happens to your brain chemistry.
Ask anyone who works out and you’ll come to find out that exercise is a crucial part of their self-care regimen. Whether it’s a routine walk, a HIIT workout class, or just you and some weights, exercise works like a drug that gets you high with absolutely no side effects. Just pure euphoria.
Is Exercise the Key to Happiness?
Exercise has shown to not only improve your physique, but it also improves your sense of well-being, energy levels, quality of sleep, and self-confidence. And the best part is you don’t need to be a super crazy fitness fanatic to reap these benefits.
According to the CDC, the average person needs at least 150 minutes of exercise a week. That’s only five 30-minute workouts that will guarantee you live a better, happier life! And it doesn’t even matter what you choose to do during those 30 minutes. So long as you get some movement in. It’s simply a matter of making that commitment!
To some, this may seem as easy as a walk in a park. But the sad reality is, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 19.3% of US adults were engaged in physical activity and sports in 2019. That means that more than 80% of Americans are living sedentary lives- which is absolutely crazy!
And while our evolutionary advances have placed us at the top of the food chain, there’s one thing we’ve failed to integrate into our society- movement. We have arrived at a daily routine that disregards any physical activity. We spend most of our time sitting, and it’s the biggest reason why we’re experiencing so many mental and physical health issues.
See, the human body is capable of so many fascinating things. Yet 80% of us will never truly tap into what it means to be human.
And it’s only when we are utilizing our bodies the way they were intended to, that we will be able to unlock all the mental benefits that come along with.
How a Daily Dose of Exercise Affects Your Mental Health
When it comes to your mental health, the best thing you can do is move your body. So much so that the American Psychiatric Association recommends exercise as a means for dealing with and combatting anxiety, depression, and ADHD, for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, exercise increases your heart rate, which in turn increases your oxygen levels. And while that doesn’t sound very exciting, oxygen actually plays a major role in improving your mood and energy levels- and it all starts at the cellular level.
Oxygen is what your cells use to create energy and function properly. From healing your gut, to increasing serotonin levels (one of four ‘happy hormones’), increased oxygen helps with greater brain functioning, improved concentration, and increased energy- all of which lead to better mood and a more positive, peaceful mindset.
But it doesn’t end there! Exercise also helps release your body’s natural feel-good hormones, which is the reason why most fitness fanatics are addicted to their lifestyle.
A 20 to 30 minute workout session is proven to increase dopamine, serotonin, and endorphin levels. These three are your happy hormones. Together, these hormones help trigger your brain’s reward system, fight off pain or discomfort, and increase your mood and sense of well-being. And that’s not to mention the confidence you get from not only achieving your goal of moving your body, but also the way that exercise shapes your body!
Last but definitely not least, the most extraordinary thing about exercise is how it can alter the physical structure and function of your brain overtime. Studies have shown that working out can generate new neurons in your hippocampus which is the area of your brain responsible for managing your emotions. Factors such as chronic stress or traumatic experience can deteriorate this area of the brain, making you more susceptible to bad mood and mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. Exercise not only equips you with the mental strength to overcome these struggles, but it also helps you rebuild your internal emotional management system.
How do I Get Started?
The best part about all of this is that it doesn’t take a crazy workout to reap the benefits! 20-30 minutes of exercise is enough to trigger a feel-good response. And while aerobic and HIIT workouts, alongside Yoga and Tai Chi, have been shown to be most beneficial for improving your mental health, any kind of exercise can (and will) get the job done.
Remember, the goal is to enjoy yourself. Life is too short to be doing workouts that you hate. Here’s a list of exercises that you can easily implement into your daily routine that will help make happiness your new baseline:
- HIIT workouts
- Skipping rope/ Jumping rope
- Strength training
And if you need a little something to get you started, here’s a link to my favorite pre workout ever. It’s completely vegan, has minimal ingredients, and uses mushroom power instead of harsh stimulants to give you all day energy and focus and it’s jitter free!