Can exercise make us happy? Really?

Senior people running in machine treadmill at fitness gym club

Image: nd3000/

Walking into my local shopping mall a while ago, I was confronted with a sign advertising ‘Happiness, only $99.’

Thinking that was a good deal, I approached the shop assistant to inquire. He explained that $99 was the first of 10 payments that purchased the treadmill that the sign was attached to.

So was it false advertising? Can exercise make us happy?

I know others who don’t share my perspective but I can honestly say that exercise does make me happy and more emotionally upbeat. And the science agrees with me!

When we move dynamically, millions of proprioceptors throughout our body scream out to our brain’s limbic system, telling it that we are all-systems-go! Little wonder that being physically active can improve our mood.

Just in case you remain unconvinced, here’s the evidence.

We’ve known for decades that a single bout of exercise can lift the blues and improve the mood. It can take as little as 10 minutes and even works for people who are suffering from major depression.

To date, more than 25 rigorous studies have concluded that regular physical activity is associated with better mood and the prevention of depression—in other words, it can make you happier and more emotionally resilient!

Studies have even shown that exercise is comparable to antidepressant medication for relieving depression—and the only side effects of exercise are good ones.

A recent study in 15 European countries found a positive association between the amount of physical activity people performed and how happy they were. In other words, when it comes to physical activity, the more the merrier!

Another recent study of more than 10,000 individuals revealed that not only are people who are more physically active happier, individuals are happier in the moments when they are more physically active.

The evidence shows that physical activity is one of the most evidence-based effective methods available for promoting and enhancing emotional wellbeing.

Darren Morton is a Fellow of the Australian Society of Lifestyle Medicine. This post is adapted from his latest book Live More Happy.

Category: Emotional Health, Physical Health

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