We are all very aware that physical exercise is good for our health. It helps to reduce the risks of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, joint and muscle problems, digestive ailments and has many other positive physical health benefits.
However, what is less well considered is how beneficial exercise is for us psychologically too.
Psychological Benefits from Exercise
People who take regular exercise have commented that it makes them feel less anxious and reduces the effects of stress. This, in part, is due to the chemicals we release into our brains when we exercise. These include dopamine and serotonin which have the effect of generating a feeling of well-being and of a positive mood. Exercise makes us feel better about ourselves, boosts our self confidence and gives us a sense of control over our bodies and minds. Body image and the way we look at ourselves are obviously at the core of these feelings but it is a fact that regular exercise does increase our happiness and confidence.
Exercising can mean different activities and different levels of intensity to different people. It is not simply the domain of the young. In fact, studies have shown that people over 65 who have taken some kind of regular exercise for 6 months or more tend to be more positive in their outlook on life, have lower blood pressure and tend to suffer less from conditions such as anxiety, mood fluctuations etc. and it can also offer protection against conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
It’s More than Just about Exercise
A lot of people are put off by the word ‘exercise’ as they perceive it to be some kind of rigid, military-style regime that they must put themselves through on a daily basis, but exercise can come in all forms and levels of intensity and it often offers us other opportunities at the same time, which can help to increase our happiness and confidence.
For example, even low key levels of exercise such as walking to the shops or walking to pick up the children from school both help our circulation system more than if we were simply to sit on the couch watching TV all day. Not only that, it also gives us an opportunity to meet and talk to other people along the way. Other more structured exercise and activity groups bring like-minded people together, offering more social interaction which all adds to our feelings of confidence and happiness.
Exercise is also good for getting rid of frustrations. If we find a sport we enjoy, many of us will still have a competitive urge and this desire to win often enables us to take our frustrations out on our opponent – all with good intentions and in good spirit, of course.
It also offers a distraction from feelings of anger, frustration or fear or some other kind of negative emotion which we might allow to take hold of us if we didn’t have exercise to keep our minds occupied.
Our happiness and confidence are often linked to the way we look and feel about ourselves and exercise helps us get into shape and to wear the type of clothes which we feel suits us best and, as it makes us healthier, it reduces or even eliminates the stress that often comes associated with feeling ill and makes our immune systems less susceptible to things such as colds and flu.
Basically, exercise makes us feel and look good and plays a significant role in us feeling happier and more confident about ourselves and our lives.