Does Exercise Make Us Happier?

All throughout high school, I was very active. I always played sports, and made it a point to go to the gym. Now that I am in college, I cannot say that my healthy habits followed me here. It is difficult to fit the gym in, as I am still adjusting to my new schedule. I was telling my mom that I have not been working out as much as I use to, and she went off on a lecture about how working out will help elevate my mood. Taking her concern into consideration, I did remember that I was a lot less stressed in high school, ultimately contributing to me usually being in a great mood. As I thought about this, I wondered if it was due to my lack of exercise, or was it just because college was more difficult than high school?

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America notes that exercise has quite an effect on various aspects of our lives. In addition to reducing stress, exercise has been shown to minimize fatigue, strengthen alertness, and boast overall cognitive function for those who engage in it regularly. The ADAA conducted a poll in order to find out just how many people engage in physical activity to reduce stress, or boost mood. They found that fourteen percent of people turn to exercise to deal with stress, and others turn to alternate activities such as watching TV, or sleeping. In addition, the ADAA sought to find what type of physical activity regular exercisers engaged in. The most popular forms of exercises were running, and walking. I believe this may be because they are the two most accessible forms of physical activity.

So why does exercise have this calming effect on our bodies? When one subjects them self to physical exercise, the body releases natural endorphins, which are our bodies’ natural form of pain relievers. They are the cause of the surge of energy one feels after exercising, for example, a “runner’s high”. Endorphins are not only released after exercise, they can also be released after participating in alternate activities, such as laughing, or receiving acupuncture.

After discovering this article, it is clear that there are many ways to eliminate stress as a college student. To me I definitely think exercise is the best option. It has physical benefits, as well as mental benefits that would greatly effect me as a college student trying to adjust to this new way of life. I now see how important it is to get back into my old habit of working out on a daily basis!




12 thoughts on “Does Exercise Make Us Happier?

  1. Patrick Winch

    This post rings very true with my personal experience. Over the summer, I worked out usually 4 times a week and played pickup basketball almost every other day. I also played lacrosse all 4 years of high school, so I was able to keep myself in pretty good shape. But, since coming to Penn State, I haven’t quite figured out a solid workout schedule yet. With that being said, on the days that I do work out, I usually feel a lot better about my health and happiness. From a less technical standpoint, I would say that I definitely enjoy the feeling of being in shape and being able to exercise extensibly without extreme discomfort. The feeling of happiness could very well be due to endorphins, like you stated. The article attached gives 10 reasons as to why exercise makes us happier.

  2. Lauren Eve Ribeiro

    This summer I spent a lot of time at the gym or running outdoors. Not only was i physically healthier, but i felt that i was emotionally healthier. Since being at school I have been busy with class, exams and sorority recruitment and have been slacking at the gym. Because of this I feel not as motivated and also more sad. I When I get home at the end of the day and I have not worked out, I feel that I was not as productive as I could have been and that part of my day has been wasted. Going forward this semester I need to be more proactive and go to the gym more often, in hopes that it will improve everyday aspects of my life like my overall happiness and the results of my school work.

  3. Lydia A Chelli

    I completely agree with this post; In fact, in high school whenever I was in a sports season, I found myself less stressed and managed my time better, which ultimately made me more positive. Even though I had less time, I made the most of any free time I had and found myself procrastinating less. So, here at Penn State I am trying to get involved with sports and fitness in order to maintain my time management skills. For those who struggle with time management altogether, here are some tips from the Huffington Post:

  4. Nathan O'brien

    I’m really glad that I read this post! I remember hearing that exercise is a great way to de-stress and help establish an overall better mood. Actually, I think exercise can help increase productivity in your daily life. A large proportion of the world’s most successful people exercise every day.
    14% of people turning to exercise to reduce stress is great, but I hope we can see that number rise in the future. People deal with stress in different ways, some drink, some smoke, some eat, and some exercise! Sadly, when I get stressed I think I eat. It’s a bad habit that I am working on conquering. Everybody needs to de-stress in one way or another. I too have not worked out since I’ve gotten here! Good luck! Maybe I’ll see you at the gym!

  5. jtc5474

    I love this post so much because i can relate to it so much. I used to go to the gym every single day in high school and in college i started going everyday, keeping my healthy habits going. However, once i started eating terribly and going out every night due to rush, i haven’t been able to go to the gym as often as i would like and it has affected my mood and how i feel drastically. I can’t sleep as well even if I’m tired because i don’t release those “natural endorphins” anymore which allow myself to fall asleep very easily since I’m both physically and mentally tired. I found a really interesting article on sleep and working out here:

  6. Corbin Kennedy Miller

    I totally relate to how you feel. I just recently started getting to the gym everyday and I can already feel the difference it has had on my mood. I think its funny how uncomfortable someone can feel when exercising, but then you get the “runners high” when you’re done. I found this article that lists the different ways that daily exercise can benefit a person, it’s definitely worth a read ( But worse comes to worse, I know that I can always turn to Netflix to take away the stress.

  7. cmt5586

    I think the post is well written, and definitely relevant, as fitting times to exercise into our daily lives can be difficult with the more responsibilities at college. However, I do think there may be something to detract from the information (I love being devil’s advocate.) 14% percent of people in the online poll conducted by ADAA responded saying they turned to exercise as a way to relieve stress, but is the intent of relieving stress more important than the means? To put that more straightforward, does stress relief have more of a placebo effect, where just thinking something relieves it causes it to be relieved? It could also be something else entirely, such as just clearing their mind of what was stressing them, that relieves it, and it happened to be exercise that allows some people to do this, while others turn to television or music. If that is the case, then the exercise itself isn’t the solution, just clearing the mind of the problems causing the stress.

  8. Natalie Elizabeth Burns

    This is a great post! I was also rather active in high school and am trying to do the same in college, but I find it harder to do so. I am always tired and craving sleep, however I’ve noticed when I exercise I have the slightest bit more energy and feel better about myself. Aside from the chemical components involved between exercise and happiness, I think it’s also the idea of body image and positive attitude along with media. The prevalence of fitness accounts of celebrities posting about being healthy, I believe, most definitely plays a role in the need to workout and be happy. I think that would interesting to look at!!

  9. Nicole Trachman

    I felt the same way you did last year! I came to college an active person and didn’t step foot into the IM building until well into the second half of the semester. I was able to get myself back on track with working out but I actually ended up facing another problem: working out became stressful. I made sure to go at least once a day, usually more and it ended up causing me more stress since I would panic if I couldn’t fit the gym in because of all my work. This is definitely something to be careful of! Exercise can be a great stress reliever just make sure it doesn’t become an added stressor. In case this does happen to you, here’s an article that helps to overcome it.

  10. Abigail Louise Edwards

    I would have to agree with you that in high school I, too, was a lot less stressed, I also went to the gym regularly. I truly do believe that working out reduces stress levels. I also was shocked to see that only 14% of americans use exercise to relieve stress, If this number was higher I bet not only the overall physical health of our country would be higher, but I bet the mental health would as well. More people should take up this habit!

  11. Joe Garrett

    I thought this was a well written post and I have to agree that exercise makes me feel a lot better. I have always enjoyed exercise whether it be biking, hiking, walking, snowboarding, skateboarding; I love it all. I also definitely use exercise as a stress reliever. If I am feeling stressed and overworked from a lot of school work and studying I find that exercising always makes me feel a lot better afterwards. It can be a challenge to fit exercise into your schedule though when you are very busy, which can be tough, but even 15 or 20 minutes of exercise can help. My favorite stress reliever is skateboarding for sure. Nothing makes you forget about all of your other problems for a little while like riding a skateboard.

  12. Lauren Hile

    I completely agree with you that exercise decreases stress! For the first two or three weeks here I was too busy with work and homework to even buy a gym membership, but after I made time this week to go to the gym for a game of basketball and go to the health center for yoga, I find myself being able to sleep better and just be more alert and awake in general. I was never really that active in high school, but now that I have the resources to be, I’m going to take full advantage of them as often as I can. According to this article (, college students receive better grades if they exercise on a regular basis. Although the best type of exercise is unclear at this point, making time to go exercise, even if it means having to miss a few hours of sleep is totally worth it.

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