Active lifestyle = Happy Lifestyle. The premise seems simple. But often, it’s the simple things in life that we have the most trouble with. If you’re anything like me, you justify your inactivity with a quick glance over at your success meter. Personal life seems like it’s going good, work or school is also going well, so things seem fine. But while an occasional night on the town with friends, or recent professional success can bring some degree of happiness to your life, there may be another area to work on before you reach your optimal state.
Besides some of the obvious reasons active people are happier than their less involved counterparts, there were a laundry list of interesting tidbits I found on my research journey. We’ll also touch on some of the factors that contribute to becoming uninspired and too bogged down to get out.
1. Being physically active just makes you happier
We’re taught at a young age that regular fitness is good for the heart, that it helps the body to build muscles, help you look and feel your best. But it also activates the release of endorphins, those feel-good chemicals that promote happiness. Regular physical activity can relieve tension, anxiety, depression, and anger.
Recently researchers from Penn State University conducted a study on the connection between regular exercise and happiness, and found that the more physically active people reported greater general feelings of excitement and enthusiasm, when compared with the less physically active people.
Dopamine, a chemical that plays a role in happiness, is a neurotransmitter in the brain that’s necessary for feelings of pleasure. Many studies suggest that as we age, we lose our stores of dopamine, which is why we need to constantly seek out experiences that release dopamine. The best way to increase your brain’s dopamine production? Exercise. I know that after I finish my 30 minutes on the eliptical, and another 30 pushing free weights around, I feel like I can take on the world—dare you to tell me I can’t.
2. Improves your heart health
It’s common knowledge that strict diet and exercise can help you achieve amazing physical results. But what you may not know is that too much sitting and other sedentary activities can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. One study showed that adults who watch more than 4 hours of television a day had a 46% increased risk of death from any cause and an 80% increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Becoming more active can help lower your blood pressure and also boost your levels of good cholesterol. So being active not only improves your current quality of life, but it plays a big part in your overall well being in the long run.
3. Benefits your long term health
Without regular physical activity, the body slowly loses its strength, stamina, and ability to function well. People who are physically active and at a healthy weight live about 7 years longer than those who are not active and are significantly overweight. In addition to the health benefits listed above, moderate exercise can have other health benefits such as:
- Reduces risk of stroke
- Improves blood circulation
- Reduces the risk of heart disease
- Keeps weight under control
- Increases muscle strength
- Improves blood cholesterol levels
- Prevents and manages high blood pressure
- Helps delay or prevent chronic illnesses and diseases.
4. It Energizes You!
Regular physical activity can improve your muscle strength and boost your endurance.
Exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. And when your heart and lung health improve, you have more energy to tackle daily tasks. More energy means you’re more engaged at work, and you’re more available to your friends and family.
5. Boosts Your Confidence
Physically active people are happier for a few reasons. When you don't feel good about how you look, you're more likely to develop low self-esteem. That can have a negative effect on all aspects of your life, including your relationships, your career, and your aspirations.
But when you start to exercise regularly, and see your body transform, the image you have of yourself changes. Exercise will not only make you love how you look, but it will also make you feel stronger, more independent, and more confident. And a boost in your confidence will definitely increase your overall happiness.
6. Eases Your Anxiousness
If you suffer from anxiousness, exercise may be the easiest remedy. Recent studies on the effects of exercise show that in people suffering from anxiety, the immediate mood boost from exercise is followed by longer-term relief, similar to that offered by meditation and mental therapy. So instead of racking up a huge bill with your therapist, you may want to go to the park and play a few pickup games, or take a few laps around the pool.
7. Helps You Get the Rest You Need
If you’re having trouble sleeping, exercise may be just the elixir you need. Staying active and exercising on a regular basis has been shown to improve sleeping problems of people with sleeping disorders. And exercise doesn’t only significantly improve your sleep quality, it can also give you that pep that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning and get stuff done!
"Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." - Benjamin Franklin
8. Improves Your Immune System
This is a big one to me, because when you’re sick, you’re not as productive. When your blood is pumping, you increase the rate at which antibodies and white blood cells run through the body. They detect and attack illness. Also, when you exercise, the release of stress-related hormones is slowed down. Stress is not just emotional – it’s physical. By decreasing those hormones, you improve your overall health.
9. Puts the Spark Back into Your Sex Life
Sometimes we feel too tired after a long weekday to even enjoy intimacy, but there's a way to get around the fatigue. Regular physical activity can boost energy levels and improve your physical appearance, which is sure to enhance your sex life. But wait, there's even more to it than that! Regular physical activity may enhance arousal for women also. And men who exercise regularly are less likely to have problems with erectile dysfunction than are men who don't exercise. Yes, improving your physical health will increase your sexual stamina, and I’m sure you won’t hear any complaints about that.
10. Exercise is a Social Activity
Exercise and physical activity can be enjoyable for you and those close to you. It gives you a chance to unwind, enjoy the outdoors or simply engage in activities that make you happy. Physical activity can also help you connect with family or friends in a fun social setting. Taking a dance or yoga class, or even riding bikes with your friend or partner can provide the physical activity you need not only to maintain a healthy lifestyle but to lead a happy one.