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10 Reasons Why Exercise Makes You Happier

10 Reasons Why Exercise Makes You Happier

Tired of feeling down in the dumps? Move! Stressed about work? Move! Tired of feeling weak throughout your day? Lift! Getting tired going up the stairs? Head to the hills! It’s amazing what exercise can do for your whole life. It’s not just about getting into a better mood. It’s about making life more joyful! When it’s easier to move, it’s easier to do everything you want to do! Check out the list below to see if something resonates with you.

1. Better Mood

Within five minutes of cardiovascular exercise, you can feel happier! Once you get moving, your brain releases serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine as well as possibly others. These make you feel good! So, even if you don’t feel like doing anything, just going for a walk can make you happier!

2. Decreased Stress

According to one online poll, only 14 percent of people use regular exercise to cope with stress. As previously mentioned, it only takes five minutes to start feeling better and it doesn’t have to be intense exercise. In fact, low- to moderate-intensity exercise is better than high-intensity for stress reduction. I recently read an article in Runner’s World regarding how exercise affects post traumatic stress disorder. Walking, running and yoga tend to be the favourite choices.

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3. More Mental Resilience

On the tougher side of the coin, when you exercise in a way that pushes you physically, you get mentally tougher. When you are mentally tougher, you can handle more stress. For some people, the feeling of developing mental resilience is addictive. You reach your goal and start wondering what else you can do! People train to take themselves further and further in sports like running, martial arts, cycling, etc. This mental toughness helps in other aspects of your life. You can handle more of anything.

4. Life Feels Easier

If you could get through your day in a physically easier way, wouldn’t that be nice? If lugging groceries and children, or moving items around the house were easier, wouldn’t you be happier? Exercise can do that for you! Increase strength, improve your cardiovascular fitness and life just feels easier! Let’s not even talk about shoveling snow.

5. Improved Immune System

There are several speculations on how exercise improves your immunity. Exercise can help by flushing out bacteria from the lungs and may also flush out carcinogens by increasing the activity of your lymphatic system, which drains waste from your body.

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When your blood is pumping, you are also increasing the rate at which antibodies and white blood cells run through the body. They detect and attack illness. Why wouldn’t you want more of that happening inside you?

When you exercise, the release of stress-related hormones is slowed down. Stress is not just emotional – it is very physical. By decreasing those hormones, you improve your health.

There can be too much of a good thing though. Mild to moderate exercise improves your immune system. Heavy, intense exercise lowers immunity and increases those stress hormones. If you are battling a cold, doing light exercise like a walk or jog for a short amount of time is a good idea. If you are training for a marathon and just finished a long run or a speed work session then you should be careful not to hang out with sick people for several hours afterwards. Use that time to give yourself proper post-workout nutrition and rest.

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6. Participate in Life

Happiness can come when you feel healthy enough to do anything you want to do. When you can engage in play with kids and grandkids, join friends for various sporting activities, and do more things with your significant other, life is amazing. When you don’t even have to think about whether you are fit enough for basic activities, that is a great place to be. Life is short; make it fun!

7. Healthy Aging

Exercise helps with maintaining a healthy weight. As you age, this becomes harder and harder to do without exercise. It also helps maintain mobility in your spine. When your spine is happy, your body can move properly. Having muscles that are able to react to your environment (think snow, ice, hills, heat, cold, etc.) makes life a whole lot easier as we age.

8. Better Sleep

When you sleep, your body temperature drops and this drop in temperature helps you sleep. When you exercise for 20-30 minutes,  five to six hours before bedtime, your body temp will then drop lower than it would if you did not exercise. This makes for better sleep!

9. Increased Energy

I must say, from personal experience, my most productive time comes AFTER I exercise. I get the most work done and feel good doing it. Treat your body like a savings account; pay yourself first! If you are new to exercise you might feel a little more tired for a week or so but then you start feeling better, and better! Stick with it!

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10. Reduced Depression and Anxiety

“There’s good epidemiological data to suggest that active people are less depressed than inactive people. And people who were active and stopped tend to be more depressed than those who maintain or initiate an exercise program,” says James Blumenthal, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Duke University. “Exercise seems not only important for treating depression, but also in preventing relapse.”

So there you have it! No more excuses. Go for a five minute walk, take up yoga, try running, and be happy!

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Jennifer Wasylenko

Exercise Physiologist, ACSM

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

1. Exercise Daily

It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

3. Acknowledge Your Limits

Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

The basic nutritional advice includes:

  • Eat unprocessed foods
  • Eat more veggies
  • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
  • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

    5. Watch Out for Travel

    Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

    This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

    If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

    6. Start Slow

    Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

    If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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    7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

    Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

    My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

    If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

    I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

    Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

    More Tips on Getting in Shape

    Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

    Reference

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