Physical activity reduces anxiety and stress; protects us from dying in general (and from dying of heart disease or cancer, in particular); reduces the risk of numerous diseases (diabetes, colon cancer, hypertension); build bones, muscles, and joints; increases quality of life; improves sleep; protects against cognitive impairments as we age; and helps control weight. Finally, exercise may very well be the most effective instant happiness booster of all activities. Is that enough?
Why does physical activity make people happier?
Psychologists believe that several explanations underlie the well-being rewards of exercise. Taking up a sport or fitness regimen makes you feel in control of your body and your health. Seeing yourself get better at something provides a terrific sense of agency and self-worth. Second is the possibility that physical activity offers potential for flow as well as a positive distraction that turns away worries and ruminations. It essentially serves as a time-out from your stressful day with positive spillover effects for hours afterward. Third, physical activity, when performed along with others, can provide opportunities for social contact, thus potentially bolstering social support and reinforcing friendships.
Finally, physical activity really has two kinds of benefits. The first is the “acute” immediate boost you gain from a single bout of exercise, and the second involves the “chronic” improvements from an ongoing exercise program.
What if Exercise Makes You Feel Bad?
First, consider finding an exercise that-magic word- fits your lifestyle, resources, and personality. Don’t jog if you live in a rainy climate and hate being wet. Don’t do aerobic exercise (e.g., elliptical machine) if you prefer anaerobic (e.g., stretching and toning). Do something that affirms some part of you. If you have only slices of time during the day, exercise in ten-minute chunks, or take the stairs everywhere you go. Second-and this is a crucial one-if exercise makes you feel bad, you are very likely overdoing it. Too many start out an exercise routine working out too hard, leaving them feeling discouraged, frustrated and generally unwell, and so they quit.
Exercise professionals traditionally advise that you calculate your maximum heart rate (most simply defined as 220 minus your age) and strive to work out at a level between 65 and 80 percent of that figure. So, if you are eighteen years old, your maximum heart rate is 202, and the range to aim for is 131 and 161.
Here are some recommendations to start a physical activity routine:
No matter how active and vigorous and successful we are during wakeful hours, if we don’t obtain an adequate amount of sleep, we’ll suffer in terms of our moods, energy, alertness, longevity, and health.