Can exercise make me feel happier?

Simple answer, YES! Have you ever noticed how you get a massive buzz or feeling of euphoria when you have done some intense form of exercise? It can be anything from a long run or a 20-mile bike ride. You feel great and have an increased level of energy too. And the reason for this is that when we do exercise our body releases chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine so we feel amazing. So what’s the evidence that sits behind this, and how much and which exercises do we need to do to feel happier?


Well firstly, the good news is, you don’t have to run a marathon to get that endorphin rush. Research proves that after just 20 or 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, you can get that rush of hormones. And even better, exercise also releases other mood-enhancing chemicals like serotonin and dopamine that can hang around in our brain for a good couple of hours after exercise. 


And if you keep exercise up as a regular routine, not only will it make you feel better mentally it also has a whole host of other benefits. It can lower your stress levels and help decrease anxiety and depression. Exercise also helps lower cholesterol, lower the risk of diabetes, lowers blood pressure, helps you develop stronger bones, reduces your risk of heart problems and the risk of cancer, and so much more.


In addition to this, you will start to find that your level of energy increases, and you sleep a lot better too.  

Sounds too good to be true. What’s the science?

That’s the general response when people hear about all the amazing benefits exercise can provide. That’s why it’s is often referred to as ‘the magic pill’, because of the huge list of benefits it has on our physical and emotional wellbeing.


There has been endless amounts of research that has been carried out around this over the years, and more recently medical practitioners around the world have started to prescribe exercise to their patients, based on the overwhelming evidence of the impact it can have.


Therapists are also encouraging regular exercise to patients, as a remedy for anxiety and depression And yes it’s been scientifically proven over and over again that exercise improves our mental health. One particular study in the medical journal, The Lancet Psychiatry, looked at surveys taken in 2011, 2013, and 2015 and found that a person generally feels 3.4 bad mental health days per month. When they looked at people who included exercise in their daily routine, however, researchers found that bad mental health days dropped by about 40%. And Covid has reinforced these findings. A Californian study in 2021, confirmed the more exercise people did during lockdown, the less depression and anxiety they experienced, and even more so if it was an activity outdoors.

Which exercise will make me feel happiest?

Whilst all physical activity is beneficial, most cardio exercises which include jogging or running, biking, or swimming are considered most beneficial. However, research also suggests that less ‘high impact’ exercises such as yoga and tai chi, especially when combined with deep breathing techniques, can also have a positive effect on our mind and body.

But the key thing here is to do something you enjoy. As with any activity, if you don’t enjoy it, it is less likely to become a habit within your daily routine.

So, think about the types of things you enjoy. Some people prefer running or jogging in the open air as they get to take in the fresh air at the same time. Some people don’t like exercising alone so prefer to exercise with others, so you can find yourself a fitness buddy or join a local group or gym. Some people enjoy other forms of exercise such as dancing, so you can find a local salsa, zumba, or other movements to music, type activity.


The fact is, scientific research proves exercising regularly makes us feel happier, more energetic greater sleep quality, improves our concentration and our self-esteem. And there are loads of long-term benefits, less anxiety, depression, less anger and it reduces the risk of numerous diseases, you age better, the list is endless.

And you get all this for just 30 minutes of exercise a day!

About Dal Banwait

Dal Banwait, aka ‘the happiologist,’ is a certified Positive Psychology Coach and passionate about helping people grow into happier healthier versions of themselves. Her coaching empowers others to cut through their own debilitating, limiting self-beliefs, holistically connecting their ‘why’ and ‘how.’ Dal has a particular interest in how mind-body techniques can control thoughts and emotions and her coaching contains powerful strategies for harnessing these in daily life. Having graduated in law, she has worked as a city professional for over 30 years and also runs Positive Psychology & Wellbeing coaching in the corporate space. Based in London, and having lived in the Far East, Dal is a writer, serial globe trotter, accidental amateur photographer and self-confessed apacarophile (sunset obsessed)!  

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