Often when people talk about exercise, they think of muscle-bound men lifting heavy bits of metal, or ultra-fit athletes running bi/tri/decathlons in extreme conditions. While this is true –- these people do exist in the world –- the truth is that exercise should be and is for everyone. As part of a healthy lifestyle, exercise can reduce health risks, make us feel more comfortable in our own skin and, most importantly, increase our happiness.
The beneficial link between exercise and mental health illnesses such as anxiety is fairly well documented. The link is generally attributed to the release of endorphins through exercise. Endorphins are a group of hormones produced by the pituitary gland in the brain as part of the “fight-or-flight” response. In general, they relieve pain, reduce stress, increase relaxation, and produce feelings of pleasure or enjoyment. With regards to exercise, they are often released as a pain suppressant. This allows you to work out for longer and harder by reducing painful sensations. As a bonus, you will also feel better about yourself and your current situation after exercising.
So what are the best routes to “exercise yourself” happy? That will vary from person to person and preference to preference, but here are some examples of what you can do.
Have you ever taken part in a salutation of the sun? No? Then you have yet to experience one of the best uplifting exercises there is -– yoga. The quintessential positivity workout, and for a good reason, yoga relaxes the mind and body as well as providing a very real and intensive workout. Studies have shown it to increase positive mental attributes in teenagers, allowing them to be more resilient and centered. There are several variations of yoga, so find out which suits you best and roll your mat out.
A great low cost and impact exercise (apart from on the poor knees), jogging has been a go-to for fighting against negative thoughts for years. Stressed out at work? Go for a jog. Are your kids acting out? Go for a jog. Have a serious life decision to make? Go for a jog. Try it out; going for a 5k run is a guaranteed way to make you feel happy that it’s over once you’re finished.
Want to do some resistance training but also want to give your joints a break? Like repetitive motion to focus your thoughts and allow you to think? Swimming meets both these needs. Water workouts – be it water aerobics, water polo, swimming laps, or any other kind – provide resistance without putting too much pressure on joints. It’s also a full body workout, which will increase the number of endorphins your body will be producing to combat the stress on the body, resulting in a bigger hit of happiness.
4. Cycling/Spin Classes
This one can be low intensity or high intensity. Taking long, gentle cycles through nature allows us to escape from the hustle and bustle of today’s world. A little quietude now and then does no one any harm.
For a more intense exercise, spin classes are a great way of getting a workout and releasing endorphins. They are often set to motivational music or speaking, so getting pumped up is guaranteed. Most gyms provide some form of spin classes, so inquire at yours and find a session that works for you!
Cementing Your Happiness
Exercise should be used to increase both your health and your happiness. The activities listed may not be for you, but the principle behind them is for everyone –- be healthy to be happy. There’s no rush to get it right away, so if these don’t seem like the activities you’d be interested in, look for classes and activities near you that fall into your areas of interest. Once you find your activity of choice and start reaping the rewards, you’ll wonder how you ever managed to do without it.
So, what exercise will you choose? Tell us in the comments!
Tom Wishart is a Glasgow-based freelance writer. Tom is educated in Chemical Engineering and experienced in what hell will most likely be like from 8 years in the hospitality and customer service industries. He covers many areas of writing – from emergent energy technologies to fitness regimes – and can be found, when not writing, pestering other gym goers at his local Glasgow gym, Anytime Fitness.
Twitter – @wishartwritings
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