Why Exercise Makes You Feel Good
Most of us are aware of the common effects of exercise on our body physically. We build more muscle or more stamina. We feel how daily activities like climbing stairs can become easier. But what about the internal effects on our body chemically?
The line “endorphins are released” is thrown around often but what does it mean? If you start exercising, your brain recognizes this as a moment of stress. As your heart pressure increases, the brain thinks you are either fighting the enemy or fleeing from it (this is your fight or flight response). To protect yourself and your brain from stress, you release a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). This BDNF has a protective and also reparative element to your memory neurons and acts as a reset switch. That’s why we often feel so at ease and things are clear after exercising. At the same time, endorphins, another chemical to fight stress, are released from the pituitary gland to minimize the discomfort of exercise, block the feeling of pain and are even associated with a feeling of euphoria. The endorphins have the ability to bind to opiate receptors throughout the body, helping to minimize the pain that is incurred as the exercise becomes longer in duration and intensity.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that’s necessary for feelings of pleasure and happiness. It is a neurotransmitter that is implicated in the reward circuitry of the brain and often inextricably linked with addictive disease and can also be regulated to keep you motivated, upbeat and enthusiastic about activities of daily living. Many studies suggest that as we age, we’re constantly losing our stores of dopamine, which is why we need to constantly seek out experiences that release dopamine. The best way to increase your brain’s dopamine production? Exercise. So run, lift, jump, play — and get happy.
Not only will working out ease stress in the short term by helping you sweat out the day’s worries, regular exercise will help you become less stressed out in the long term as well. That’s because when you exercise, you’re actually subjecting yourself to a low-level form of stress by raising your heart rate and triggering a burst of hormonal changes. When you subject yourself to the stress of exercise enough, your body will eventually get better at handling the rest of life’s stressors.
Exercise and physical activity deliver oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and help your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. And when your heart and lungs work more efficiently, you have more energy to go about your daily activities. There is no doubt you have days when you just feel too tired to exercise, but no matter how exhausted you are from a long day at work, taking care of your family or recovering from a busy weekend, do your best to muster up all the willpower you have and get to your workout.
When you don’t get to your workout then you start to feel sluggish and tend to not feel good about your body or how you look, it’s all too easy to have low self-esteem. And that can have a negative effect on all areas of your life including your relationships, your career, and your goals and aspirations. But when you start to exercise and see your body transform, that can quickly change. Because exercise will not only make you like how you look, it will also make you feel stronger, more independent, and more confident. There’s nothing like a boost of confidence to increase overall happiness.
Exercise will also have a chemical effect on the body helping to reduce anxiety by keeping your body calm. Recent studies on the effects of exercise show that in people suffering from anxiety, the immediate mood boost from exercise is followed by longer-term relief, similar to that offered by meditation and talk therapy. And finally, staying active and exercising on a regular basis has been shown to improve sleeping problems of insomniacs and people with sleeping disorders. Not only can regular exercise significantly improve your sleep quality, it can also give you that pep that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning and do things.
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