Sculpted muscles? Flat abs? Tight butt? Sure, exercise MAY result in these enhancements, but there is an important benefit of exercise that is often overlooked. Exercise can contribute to HAPPINESS! There are periods in our lives when we may feel down, lethargic, depressed, anxious, or even hopeless. Big pharmaceutical companies tell us via television commercials and ads that THEY have an answer for us during these down times----their drugs! No doubt, severe emotional issues may need the intervention of a mental health professional. However, there are many studies that have shown that regular exercise can be effective in healing emotional pain and creating feelings of happiness (without the side effects of stomach distress, sexual dysfunction, dry mouth, or jitteriness).
Here are a few ways exercise can contribute to your sense of happiness:
- As body changes occur, it makes you feel better about the way you look.
- Endorphins ("feel good" hormones) are released in the brain, leading to feelings of calmness and an uplifted mood.
- The sense of accomplishment after a work out leads to improved self-esteem and self-confidence.
- Creative thoughts and resolutions to problems are often accomplished while exercising.
- Exercising in a group builds friendships and valuable support systems.
- Self-discipline is improved due to the determination needed to stick to an exercise program.
- Sleep quality is improved, reducing irritability and anxiety.
- Mental acuity and memory are improved. Yes, research shows that exercise may make you smarter!
- Exercise is "adult play", and it is fun to PLAY!
It is just as important to take care of our emotional needs as our physical needs. Many of us (especially women) put our own needs at the bottom of the heap after taking care of everyone else.
Be reminded that the airline attendants tell you to put on YOUR OWN oxygen mask in an emergency before helping someone else with theirs. Likewise, take time to exercise for YOU. You will then be better around others.
Debbie Powers, an Executive Director with Body Wise International, is Assistant Professor Emerita of Wellness at Ball State University. She has co-authored A Wellness Way of Life, 8th ed., McGraw-Hill; A Fit and Well Way of Life, 2nd ed., McGraw-Hill; and A Fit Way of Life, 2nd ed., McGraw-Hill.