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How Exercise Makes Us Happier

Exercise can be named as one of the most effective anecdotes for a handful of significant diseases, disorders and daily bodily functions.

Often, we think of exercising as a means to lose weight, get stronger or just do something good for our heart however, there's a lot more to it than that.

Exercise has been proven to actually make us happier! That's why you often feel better when you leave the gym all aglow then when you walked in.

Often times we hear about exercise boosting our endorphins, but what that actually means is a little iffy. In an article from Well and Good, author Emily Laurence, includes a quote from Dr. J. Kip Matthews stating: “Endorphins are neurochemicals produced in the body in the pituitary gland in response to stress and pain,” Dr. Matthews explains. In layman’s terms, they’re kind of like natural painkillers. “They interact with opiate receptors in the body, which then minimizes our pain experience.” (Source)

We get a quick hit of endorphins while performing intense exercise where the body is put under a decent amount of stress. The endorphins released during exercise can be as powerful as therapy or other stress-releasing practices and can help lower depression, anxiety and other mood disorders.

During exercise, our brain chemistry actually changes by not only pumping endorphins but also producing a chemical called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor or BDNF. BDNF is a vital protein which helps to create and maintain brain neurons that can help reduce anxiety and depression. According to studies, "chronic exercise has been shown to increase BDNF mRNA and protein concentrations in the hippocampus, while acute exercise had been shown to increase BDNF concentration in the periphery" (Piepmier). For quick increased levels of BDNT, HIIT exercise has been proven to be most effective.

On a baseline level, exercise can also be effective in releasing stress. All forms of exercise require some concentration and place focus on something other than work, home and other life stressors. This inherently distracts us from what is going on outside the workout and can help aid in relaxation. As well, the ending high from endorphins and satisfaction from completing something can also help to forgive some of the stress you've been under.

It's not necessarily all about how it makes us happy, it's how to include the happy dose of exercise on any given day when dealing with stress, depression, anxiety, work and every other thing that has to go on.

1. Make it a priority: Take 15-20 minutes out of your day to take a walk, do 100 sit-ups, pushups and squats or get some kind of training in. Those 15-20 minutes may currently be spent scrolling through the phone or watching TV. Redirect that energy into something more positive. Want to get even more ahead in life? Work out first thing in the morning before work. Wake up 20 minutes earlier to get that morning sweat on.

2. Follow a program and make a habit: Keep track of data, follow a program, use a trainer and make a habit of getting in at least a few sessions a week. Set up a chart or reward process as you get started to keep you motivated and focused on a goal.

3. In the words of Nike, just do it: Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. Your health and self-care should be at least 1/2 of one of those hours a few times a week. You're important and your body is too.

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