The science of exercise and happiness

How brain chemicals released with exercise make you happier

Physically active people are happier.

Exercise reduces depression, anxiety, stress and panic; it betters mental processing, creates longer life, improves sleep quality, and strengthens the immune system.

Positive psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky says, “Research demonstrates that exercise may be the most reliable happiness booster of all activities.”

John Ratey, the world-famous exercise researcher, says, “Exercise increases the brain’s learning and memory capacities. People’s mood significantly increased after exercising.”

The happy brain chemicals of exercise

Exercise increases blood flow to our brains, lifts our moods, forms new neurons, and releases some brain chemicals as endorphin, serotonin, dopamine, leptin, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

The BDNF, the scientists say, repairs the memory neurons. This could be the reason a bout of exercise clears your thoughts and reboots your thinking patterns.

Exercise researcher MK McGovern says, “One of the most exciting changes that exercise causes is neurogenesis, creation of new neurons. The new neurons are created in the hippocampus, the center of learning and memory in the brain.”

But McGovern also warns that you can’t overexercise your way to a brilliant memory, because beyond a certain point the BDNF doesn’t increase any more with exercise.

Almost immediately on starting exercise, a neurochemical orchestrated euphoria sets off. This euphoric effect is greatest in the beginning, but it can last long till waning off.

Latest finding

Recently, a new research was published in the scientific journal Cell revealed how exercise helps the body remove toxic substances linked to stress-related depression.

Dr. Jorge Ruas, who led the study, said: “We actually found… well-trained muscle produces an enzyme that purges the body of harmful substances.”

Author Bio: This ultra-short version of the original post was written by Sandip Roy, the original author.


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Originally appeared at Happiness India Project.

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