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Why Should You Exercise? Because it Makes You Happier

According to researchers at the University of Vermont, just 20 minutes of exercise can give you benefits to your mood for up to 12 hours afterwards. Interestingly enough, people are most likely to exercise when they’re in a neutral mood, not when they are feeling happy or sad. This does not necessarily mean that the best time to exercise is when you are in a neutral mood. Exercise actually has the most significant effect on our mental status when we are in a bad mood.

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It’s not hard to tell the physically active people are generally happier with their lives, but that’s not all that they have going for them. Exercise increases endorphins and all sorts of feel good chemicals in your brain, but it also does other things. Exercise has been shown to reduce the levels of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol in your body. Not only that, but exercise has been proven to be able to be a remedy for both anxiety and depression.

The optimal minimum amount of exercise that needs to be done in order to receive the benefits of exercise is about 30 to 60 minutes of exercise about three to five days a week, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, but even less exercise may still be able to deliver you close to the same benefits. Research has shown that even a short stroll can improve your mood. The most important thing to keep in mind, though, is that longer continuous exercise is much more effective in improving your mood than short exercise split up into multiple parts. In a recent study of Canadian walkers, it was shown that subjects who had one thirty minute stroll had a much more significant mood boost than people who split their strolls up into three ten minute strolls.

Strength training is actually one of the most effective ways to improve your mood, so don’t just focus on cardio! Strength training has been shown to reduce depression and anxiety as well as being able to improve self-esteem. Not just any strength training will give these great benefits though. A study by Rutgers University has shown that moderate  intensity strength training was much more effective in improving moods than both low and high intensity strength training. 

Being inside, though, is not always the most effective way to improve your mood. Actually, exercising outside has been shown to be more revitalizing and able to make people feel more energetic and engaged. It makes people feel less tense, angry, and depressed. The best place to take a stroll is actually in a more natural environment compared to in an urban environment. So, sign up for outdoor yoga, ride your bike to work instead of driving, and swim laps outside as opposed to inside in the summer. Find a fun way to exercise. Listen to music when you exercise. Exercise with friends. To quote Henry David Thoreau, “An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.”