You may know the benefits of exercise range from strengthening your heart to fitting into your jeans. But there’s also a lesser-known fact about exercise that may surprise you; exercise can actually improve your mood! And there’s science to prove it. Motivate yourself to exercise not only for your body but also for a happier life!
The release of endorphins due to exercise enriches physical and mental health. Endorphins are brain chemicals that transmit electrical signals throughout the nervous system to reduce pain and sedate the body. This natural system of pain relief causes a state of euphoria. You may have heard runners describe this state as a “runner’s high” and heard them explain how running and this resulting high helps clear their head and sleep more soundly. Studies support their claims. A 2011 paper entitled “Review: The Benefits of Physical Activity for Health and Well-Being” explains that physical activity and the resulting release of endorphins reduces stress and tension, and boosts positive mental states, therefore improving overall emotional well-being. The studies reviewed in the paper further suggest that regular activity is associated with an overall higher quality of life.
Physically, exercise lowers blood pressure, protects against disease and cancer, and enhances physical shape. Mentally and emotionally, exercise reduces stress, triggers relaxation, wards off anxiety, diminishes feelings of depression, boosts self-esteem, and improves sleep. The Center for Disease Control advises half an hour to an hour of moderate exercise at least four days a week. Brisk walking is a great way to meet the requirement, but if you can’t find the time to get out of the office or the house, a short exercise routine will do the trick!
1. Start standing with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Reach arms long by sides to frame the body. This is start position.
2. Bend knees, hinge at hips, and reach arms back behind the body to come into a squat position. Position knees in line with ankles. Now, move back to start position.
3. Inhale; lengthen the side body—the space between the ribs and hips. Exhale; squat and empty by drawing the belly in toward the back and up toward the ribs.
4.Continue for 12 breath cycles.
1. Start standing with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Bring hands to sternum in Eastern Prayer Mudra (hands sealed with finger stems pointing north), and pull the elbows wide. This is start position.
2. Step one foot back, coming into a wide stance, with both feet pointing forward and back heel lifted off the ground. Bend both knees, lowering until legs form a 90-degree angle. Organize front knee directly above ankle and back knee directly in line with hip. Return to start position.
3. Inhale; lengthen the side body—the space between the ribs and hips. Exhale; step back to lunge, empty by drawing the belly in toward the back and up toward the ribs.
4. Continue for 12 breath cycles and follow with the alternate side.
1. Place a chair in front of you with the back of the chair facing your front body. Stand tall with heels together and toes pointing out. Gently place finger stems over the top of the chair.
2. Ground feet by pushing the bases of toes and heels into the floor. Using the chair to support you, lift heels off floor to balance on bases of all ten toes. Equalize weight between base of big toes and base of pinky toes.
3. Inhale; lengthen the side body—create space between the ribs and hips. Exhale; empty by drawing the belly in toward the back and up toward the ribs.
4. Hold for 3 breath cycles. Rest and repeat 8 times.
1. Start seated on the end of a bench, chair or step. Place hands next to and framing hips with fingers facing forward and draped over edge and elbows facing back. Hug elbows in toward the body.
2. Extend legs in front of you and bring seat off the bench, chair or step. This is start position.
3. Hugging elbows in toward the body, bend elbows to bring arms to a 90-degree angle. Then stretch elbows to return to start.
4. Inhale; to prepare. Exhale; bend elbows and empty low belly. Inhale; return to start.
5. Continue for 10 more breath cycles.
1. Start on hands and knees with hands under shoulders and knees under hips in All 4s. Equalize weight at the hands. Step right foot back and then left to Plank Pose.
2. Inhale; enliven the hand by pushing the heel of hand and base of fingers into the ground. Exhale; hug elbows in toward the body and bend them to lower the body half way to the floor.
3. Inhale; rise to Plank. Exhale; lower to Low Push-Up.
4. Continue for 4 more breath cycles.
1. Start on hands and knees with hands under shoulders and knees under hips in All 4s.
2. Bring forearms to the floor with wrist and elbows aligned. Equalize weight on forearms. Step right foot back and then left. Position elbows below the shoulders and pull heels high. This is Forearm Plank.
3. Equalize weight between the forearms and feet. Lengthen side body – the space between the ribs and the hips. Organize the shoulders by opening collarbones wide and plugging tips of shoulder blades down the back.
4. Inhale; fill the space between the shoulders blades with breath. Exhale; empty by drawing the belly in toward the lower back and up toward the ribcage. Hold for 30 seconds to a minute.
- Take the stairs. It’s sometimes hard to find sanctioned time for working out, but there’s always time to add little bits of exercise into your day. The next time you are faced with choosing the stairs or the escalator, choose the stairs and do your health a favor by burning some extra calories.
- Go outside. Fresh air is good for the mind and body. Simply walking through a nearby park is an easy way to induce relaxation and clear the mind.
- Try a new form of exercise. There’s no better way to jumpstart your fitness regimen than by experimenting with different styles of exercise. Check out your local yoga studios and gyms. Look for instructors with credentials and experience. There are a multitude of fitness styles out there for you to try. Find the one that suits you best.