Exercise can make you happier

January 15, 2016 | by Cindy Eggemeyer
Categories: Healthy Driven Minds

Ask people why they exercise and they'll talk about managing their weight or becoming stronger and more flexible. They may even mention keeping their hearts healthy. They don't often say they want to be happier. Yet the emotional and social benefits of exercise are just as real and important as those toned muscles and better fitting jeans.

Exercise can boost our frame of mind in several ways. It releases neurotransmitters, endorphins and other chemicals that can make us calmer, more energetic and less prone to the blues. Physical effort not only knocks out stress, it helps us sleep better, which also improves mood. Even symptoms of clinical depression often improve significantly with at least 30 minutes of daily exercise three to five days a week, the effects of which may last if the person stays committed to exercise long term.

And, there’s nothing like setting and meeting goals to help boost confidence. If you meet your goal of attending a fitness class a few times a week, pretty soon it becomes a habit and the sense of accomplishment carries over to other areas of life.

Exercise also can help us stay connected socially if we reach out. That could mean enlisting an exercise buddy, taking a class or doing a 5K. Or it might just be going for a walk with a friend or playing ball with the family instead of watching TV.

Spending time with the other people in an exercise class helps relieve stress and isolation. A number of hospital-based fitness facilities also offer fitness/social opportunities to people with limitations when it comes to exercise. Examples are programs for pre- and postnatal women or classes for people with fibromyalgia or arthritis.

Regular exercise promotes a better outlook, a clearer mind and a healthier body. It may not be a magic bullet, but it's close.

5 ways to fit in fitness

Even if you're faithful about daily workouts, it's important to be active throughout the day. Try these strategies for fitting in fitness:

  1. Watching real-time TV? Don't fast forward through the commercials. Instead, use the time to run up the stairs and back, do a few jumping jacks or just march in place.
  2. Hate the gym? Try gardening or another physical hobby that you'd enjoy.
  3. Volunteer to be fit. Instead of stuffing envelopes, sign up to deliver meals to shut-ins, paint walls for an older neighbor or walk the dog for a sick friend.
  4. Think through your regular errands. Are there some you could get to by bike or walking? If you do drive, park in a spot at the far end of the lot.
  5. Keep your family on the move. If you can't sell a day of cleaning the garage, maybe you'll have better luck working out together at the gym, playing racketball, or going ice skating.

How do you fit in fitness? Share your ideas in the below comments!

Learn more about Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness Centers.

Cindy Eggemeyer is the Executive Director of Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness Centers.

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