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Science tells us why sports make you happy

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Those who have never experienced it themselves and know it only by hearing often do not believe it: sports make you happy. But is this really so? If so, why do we always feel better after a sports session than before? FITBOOK checked the learning situation.

Very few people report that they feel better after exercise, have a better body image, have clarity in their head and that exercise makes them happier. Some develop better self-esteem as a result. Overcoming your weakness and getting into sports is often not easy, but the reward for this is almost always a good feeling. Or are we finally imagining the positive psychological effects of exercise? FITBOOK checked out a few studies to find out if exercise really makes you happy.

Intense exercise is not the only thing that makes you happy

When we do sports, the body releases messenger substances and hormones that enhance our well-being. Hormones released include, for example, endorphins, also known as happiness hormones, serotonin and dopamine. At the same time, it suppresses the hormones that cause stress and anxiety. So it is not surprising that sports make people happy.

However, until a few years ago, there was relatively little scientific evidence of how physical activity affects mental health. This is what a major study published in 2015 wanted to change.1 The data was assessed by 11,637 people from 15 European countries. All test subjects are required to classify their state of happiness on a six-point scale between happiness and unhappiness. They should provide information about their physical activity and where it takes place – for example at home, at work or during leisure time. The results were adjusted to influence factors such as gender, age, country of origin, public health, relationship status, occupation, and education.

Scientists have found that as physical activity increases, so does the happiness of those who take the test. According to the results of the study, people consider themselves to be the happiest

  • I did a lot of exercise at home
  • There was some exercise in the workplace
  • In their spare time they did a lot of sports.

This study shows that it does not have to be sporty in the classic sense to increase your own level of happiness. So get enough physical exercise in your daily life.

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Active people are happier than those who do not exercise

A study that interviewed 8,122 Irish students came to a similar conclusion.2 They too should indicate their happiness on a scale. They need to assess their general health and mental health. Of course they were also asked how often they do sports or physical activity.

The assessment found that only 64.3 percent of students did 150 minutes of light or intense exercise per week. The proportion of males (72.1 per cent) is much higher than that of females (57.8 per cent). Students who adhere to the recommended exercise guidelines for at least 150 minutes a week are found to evaluate themselves as healthier and happier overall than their inactive classmates.

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Marathon runners are less prone to depression

Long-distance runners in particular often enjoy what is often called the “Flow” or “Runners’ High.” It is about the state of happiness when you feel completely free and detached. This usually happens when the body is in a metabolic balance as the training intensity is not very high. Suddenly you run like you are alone, you do not feel tired, you have the feeling that you can move on forever. It’s a feeling of happiness.

A study in 2020 wanted to know exactly how happy marathon runners are.3 100 marathon runners were compared to 46 uncomfortable people of the same age. Everyone had to answer extensive questions that determined not only the level of happiness, but also moods such as anger and rage and the possibility of depression in exam subjects. During the six-month course, marathon runners had to answer these questions six times.

The results were surprising: marathon runners showed fewer depressive symptoms and a more positive mood than those who did not exercise. Especially 24 hours after a marathon, the mood was very good and balanced. Researchers conclude that more than the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week can help control the symptoms of depression. Definitely the most satisfying experience of mastering a marathon.

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Even a 10 minute run a day makes you happy

Although endurance sports are good not only for the heart system but also for the mind, many people can do very little with it. Either they see the training units and the speed of training are very similar or they do not seem to do sports for more than an hour. Not to mention a marathon. But there is good news: even ten minutes of exercise a day can increase the feeling of happiness.

A Japanese study explores how running a small spontaneous race affects people’s well-being and intellectual performance.4 To do this, after a ten-minute run at a moderate speed, subjects should undergo a test to determine their ability to process conflicting information. Meanwhile, brain activity was measured. For example, the word “red” is written in green, but one of the tasks was to read it. Because it confuses our brain, it measures reaction time until the word is read correctly.

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After a short run, the researchers found that the gap in response times narrowed and the part of the brain (prefrontal cortex) that controls mood and thought became more active. Participants also reported better mood after the race.

“Given the degree of executive control needed to coordinate balance, movement, and drive during running, neural activation in the prefrontal cortex may increase and other activity in this area may benefit from an increase in brain resources,” the study said. Author Professor Hideki Zoya. In simple English it means: When we jog, it stimulates the part of the brain that controls our thinking and mood. So, for neurological reasons, running makes you happy.

Strength training also has a positive effect on the mind

Strength training has been used for years as a therapeutic measure against depression and should be able to reduce the symptoms of anxiety disorders as well. Conversely, mentally healthy people should also be able to benefit mentally from strength training. Researchers at the University of Limerick (Ireland) and various U.S. faculties have found that weight training and weight training can prevent mental illness from 2020 onwards.5FITBOOK reported.

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And participated in the study Twenty-eight physically fit women said they had no anxiety or depression. Half of them practiced moderate weight and body weight within eight weeks, and the other half worked as a control group. Before and after the study period, the “fear level” of the test subjects was measured. It was very low in both groups because, as I said, the patients were not mentally pre-stressed. In the strength training group, the values ​​actually improved.

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Sports make you happy! It is scientifically supported. However, research here is still in its infancy. So there are still a lot of questions: Which sport makes you happiest? How intensely should you exercise to positively influence the mind? Is it fun to play sports alone or with friends? Some studies show that endurance sports can improve mood, especially in the form of running, and even help against depression. This could lead to other endurance sports such as swimming and cycling. It does not have to depend on intensity. Because a ten minute run or even 150 minutes a day Moderate exercise during the week has a positive effect on our sense of happiness. Research shows that strength training has a positive effect on our mental health.


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