Does Exercise Make You Feel Happier? A Little Goes A Long Way, According To New Research
Whenever I'm in a bad mood, I know that rolling out my yoga mat and getting in a juicy flow will turn my frown upside down pretty much every single time. The combination of mental and physical strength that my practice allows me to tap into makes me feel on top of the world. But this goes for all forms of exercise, not just yoga. Anyone who loves to work out will be first in line to tell you that exercise makes you feel happier when you're in a crummy mood — but the proof isn't just anecdotal.
The New York Times reports the results of a new review of research, which focused on the link between physical activity and good moods. According to the new findings, people who work out for as little as 10 minutes a day tend to feel happier and have more cheerful dispositions than those who don't work out at all. Yep, you read that right: You don't need to sweat it out for an hour at a time to reap the feel-good benefits of exercise. All you need to do is carve just 10 minutes out of your day for a little movement. That sounds pretty doable, right?
According to the new research, which was published in The Journal of Happiness Studies, literally any form of exercise can boost your mood in as little as 10 minutes.
Researchers poured over the results of several studies on the connection between happiness and exercise, with some studies dating all the way back to 1980. According to The New York Times, the studies included in this review were both observational and experimental, meaning some involved researchers simply asking people how much they worked out and how happy they were (which is observational), while others "were experiments in which people started exercising and researchers measured their happiness before and after," the news outlet reports.
After combining all of this information, the researchers managed to gather results from more than 500,000 people of various ages, races, socioeconomic groups, and ethnicities. What this means is, no matter who you are or where you are in the world, the researchers concluded that finding time for exercise — even if it's just 10 freaking minutes — is pretty much guaranteed to boost your mood and increase your overall well-being. Weiyun Chen, one of the authors of this review who's also an associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Michigan, told The New York Times,
There are indications that social factors could mediate the effects of exercise on happiness for some people.
We know that exercise improves health, and feeling healthier might make people feel happier.
In other words, there are a lot of factors at play to explain why exercise makes you feel so good. The "social factors" that Chen is alluding to might include "the social interactions that occur during an exercise class or trip to the gym," The New York Times explained. Moreover, Chen told the news outlet, "exercise might also remodel the brain" and create new brain cells that promote happiness and a better mood. Clearly, exercise has a huge effect on your body (and your brain), and we're all only just beginning to understand its full scope.
Now that you know just how amazing exercise can be for your well-being, that means it's time to find a 10-minute workout to reap all those lovely benefits.
And hey, if you want, or have time, to work out for longer sessions, do you, girlfriend. But if you're as busy as I am most of the time, take a cue from this new research and stick to that approachable, easy-peasy 10-minute time slot.
Consider starting out with a 10-minute beginner yoga flow. Try doing this first thing in the morning, so that you won't be able to make excuses later in the evening. Plus, the good vibes and juicy movement will kickstart your morning better than an espresso ever could — trust me.
Or, if yoga's not really your thing, maybe you'd be interested in working on your core strength to build a more functional and powerful body. Try adding a quick 10-minute ab circuit into your schedule to strengthen your body and boost your mood.
Still not feeling these suggestions? Maybe you'd get more out of lacing up your sneakers and going for a casual walk around the block, or even a short-and-sweet jog to get your heart pumping and a nice, steady stream of happy endorphins.
It might take a little experimenting to find a form of movement that you truly click with, but once you do find what you love, you won't want to go a day without your 10 minutes of "me time."