There is nothing like an exercise-induced & # 39; endorphin rush & # 39; but according to health psychologist Dr. Kelly McGonigal explain the endorphins only a small part. There are many other ways in which sports make us happier – by reducing stress, reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation, and helping people relieve anxiety and depression, among other benefits.
Keep reading to find out more about science and psychology behind why exercise makes you happier and why you might want to make more time for it in your own life.
Movement helps you to make contact with others
"Movement itself prepares you to make contact with others. When you increase your heart rate, when you use your body, when you tighten your muscles, it changes your brain chemistry in a way that makes it easier to connect with others and bind others, it trusts other social pleasures such as a high five, laughter or a hug, "McGonigal said.
Follow a few fitness trainers or fitness influencer accounts on social media, and you will see that they use words like "fit fam", http: //www.cnet. com / "fit family" or the hashtag #fitfam. The term usually refers to a group of people with whom you regularly train, who you also consider to be a friend or family because you have a bond with your love for the same training. McGonigal says that this is largely due to what happens in your brain when you train with others.
"With whomever you move, whether it is a walking group or perhaps a group lesson, because of the way exercise changes our brain chemistry and outlook, you begin to feel a genuine sense of belonging to the people you move with. Therefore, people talk about people they train with as their & # 39; fitness fam & # 39; http://www.cnet.com / "Because it really gives us a sense of belonging, it helps build relationships that are real friendships and sources of support. And I have seen that happen in my own lessons, "says McGonigal, who also gives group lessons.
Having a & # 39; fitnessfam & # 39; can mean more than just a group of people you can rely on to train with you. When you make contact with people with shared values (such as valuing your health and well-being) and interests (for whatever type of training you do), there is automatically a greater chance that your relationship will be even stronger because you share these things. And experts agree that having strong relationships and connections in life is one of the most important factors for overall happiness.
Exercise helps to reduce anxiety and depression
You've probably heard that exercise increases endorphins, but also increases many more chemicals in the brain that make you feel happy. "When you exercise, it increases endorphins, dopamine, adrenaline and endocannabinoid – these are all brain chemicals that are associated with happy feeling, self-assurance, feeling capable, feeling less anxiety and stress, and even less physical pain," says McGonigal .
Exercise is also shown to help some people with depression, which experts say could be due to an increase in nerve cell growth in the brain that occurs when you exercise.
Another chemical that has been shown to help relieve stress and stimulate happiness is myokine, which your body produces when your muscles contract.
"These myokines begin to change the function and structure of your brain in ways that make you more resilient to stress and can help people recover from depression and even anxiety disorders," said McGonigal.] 1965902 3] gettyimages-583690295 “/>
If you have mastered something difficult – such as a yoga position – this gives your self-confidence a boost.
Exercise can help increase your self-confidence
When it comes to feeling happier and stronger in life, trust is crucial.
According to McGonigal, exercise helps increase your self-confidence, because when you train, you do something challenging together with other people (ideally) that gives you a sense of shared performance and teamwork.
"When you move with other people it creates a strong sense of & # 39; greater than self & # 39; ability that makes people feel more optimistic and empowering," McGonigal said. "And it enables people to feel more empowering when taking on the challenges in their own lives. And that is an interesting additional benefit of moving with other people, because there is a embodied feeling of" we are here together " that translates into self-confidence and the ability to take on challenges in your life. "
Exercising outdoors has an effect on your brain that is similar to meditation
If you are like the countless others who have heard about the benefits of meditation but don't seem to find the time, good news. You may not really have to meditate to get some benefits. In McGonigal's research, she discovered that exercising outdoors can have a similar effect on the brain and mood as meditation.
"Exercising outdoors has an immediate effect on mood that is extremely powerful for depression and anxiety. Because it induces a state in your brain that is very similar to meditation, the state of open consciousness," McGonigal said.
"For people whose minds are not their best friends and engaged in ruminating and worrying, something as simple as walking or cycling outdoors can have a direct profound effect that can help provide enormous relief because it invites the mind to spontaneously switch without any effort in this meditative state, "McGonigal said.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care professional for any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.