You have probably noticed you have a boost of self-esteem and positive energy after you exercise. Even long after working out, jogging, or biking, you find yourself smiling more and even feeling better about your life and those around you. Why is that? It is because exercise makes human beings happy. But how does this work? How can something as grueling and strenuous as difficult physical activity cause a person to smile and feel great? Let’s take a look at the natural process that exercise fuels.
Doctors have had a tough time pointing out exactly how, at a cellular level, exercise promotes a good mood and decreases anxiety and stress. But they do know that when you begin physically stressing your body in any way, your heart begins to beat faster. The number one goal of your heart is to make sure that oxygenated blood is pumped throughout your body.
The oxygen in your blood energizes your muscles, giving you the ability to perform simple and complex tasks and actions. And your heart has to beat faster and deliver more blood when your muscles are stressed during exercise.
But along with extra oxygen, exercise also delivers endorphins to your brain. Endorphins are the “feel-good” chemical that your body releases in times of stress. Consider them natural opiates that help you handle pain, stress, and anxiety, both mental and physical.
Basically, your exercising is letting your brain knows that the stress you are experiencing is positive. These are the same endorphins which are released when you eat chocolate and other comfort foods, and when you have sex, because they want you to repeat this behavior.
Your body is telling your brain that the physical stress you are receiving is good. Your body knows that your muscles must be stressed to become stronger, so it rewards your brain with a signal that this is a positive action. After your exercise or workout regimen is over and you feel worn out and tired, your body begins the healing process.
Your stressed muscles actually begin to repair and heal in a way that makes them stronger than they were before you exercised. And those endorphins which were released still stimulate your brain and give you a feeling of self-confidence and happiness long after your hike, bike ride, or yoga session is over.
The brain knows that you are healthier and live longer when you are physically fit, so it rewards your dedicated exercise and physical fitness efforts by making you feel happy and content with your efforts.