Exercise helps us to stay healthy and can prevent all kinds of diseases. But there are also psychological benefits of exercise that we should take into consideration.
Exercise and stress
When we are stressed, our body produces the hormone cortisol, also known as the ‘stress hormone’. Having too much of this hormone for a long period of time can have negative effects on your health on the long-term. Exercise contributes to the reabsorption of cortisol. When we are afraid, anxious or angry, a significant amount of cortisol is present in our body. When we exercise, our body is able to process this hormone, which helps to reduce stress.
Exercise will also release more dopamine in the body. An increase in dopamine levels is associated with an elevated mood. In addition, exercise results in an increase in endorphins, known as the anti-stress hormone. Finally, you will increase your serotonin level by exercising. This hormone is important for mood, impulse control and self-confidence.
Exercise is also an excellent way to reduce muscle tension, which has a significant impact on stress. On the one hand, exercising serves as a distraction that calms us and reduces anxiety. On the other hand, the recreational aspect of exercise and sports leads to the release of a lot of emotional tension.
Exercise and a good feeling
In addition, regular exercise naturally ensures that you keep your fitness levels up. By taking care of our bodies and pushing our boundaries, our self-esteem increases. After exercising, we get a feeling similar to the feeling we get when we reach a goal. This, in turn, ensures that we value ourselves higher. One of the effects that exercise also has on the brain is the activation of endorphin production. Endorphins are chemicals that act as neurotransmitters. Their job is to reduce physical pain (almost like a medicine) while creating a feeling of happiness.
Exercise in the right way
The guideline with regard to exercise for adults aged 18 to 55 years is to engage in at least half an hour of moderately intensive physical activity for six days a week. This can be, for example, a half hour of brisk walking or cycling. Keep in mind that this is a minimum. If you exercise more or more intensively, you will also experience more health benefits. Exercise does not necessarily have to be sports. House chores, grocery shopping or working on your home can also count. It is also not necessary to be physically active for half an hour each time. Every period of exercise of at least 10 minutes counts and you can distribute these blocks throughout the day. Every little bit helps, therefore:
- Take the stairs.
- Leave the car and go cycling.
- Do your shopping on foot or by bike.
- Take a walk during your lunch break.
- Get off the bus one stop in advance and walk for 10 minutes.
In NiceDay, you can use the pedometer to keep track of how many steps you are taking each day. By doing this, you can get some insight into whether you could use more exercise or if you are on the right path. You can also plan activities, such as going to the gym or going for a walk. Afterwards, keep a record in your diary of what the experience was like and what went well (and possibly less so).
Hallal, P. C., Victora, C. G., Azevedo, M. R., & Wells, J. C. (2006). Adolescent physical activity and health. Sports medicine, 36(12), 1019-1030.