Is there a link between exercise and happiness?


Happiness, happiness and more happiness is what we all strive for in life. What is happiness? According to oxford dictionaries, happiness is a state of being happy. In my opinion, most if not everything we do in life is aimed at happiness.

In a stressful and some what depressing world like ours, sometimes  happiness seems like a luxury only few can afford. People work hard and play very little and end up stressed or depressed. Some people think material things like houses, cars, and lots and lots of money will make them happy but plenty of times it doesn’t. This is why we sometimes hear of celebrities who commit suicide.

We very often look for happiness in all the wrong places like for example stuffing our bodies with sugar, alcohol or drugs as a means to escape anxiety, depression and stress. Over time these things end up making us sadder since they only offer temporary distraction and in the long run lead to many health problems.

There is a better and healthier way to happiness, exercise! It is well know that exercise is directly related to positive mental health. Regular exercise changes our brain chemistry in very amazing ways that all can contribute very substantially to our overall health. Exercise also have health benefit to other organs in the body other than the brain.


It is recommended in North America that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity to vigorous exercise a week in other to reap the full health benefits of exercise. In North America only about 30% of adult say they get that much exercise or more in a week.

With parenthood comes changes in social life, sleep cycle, physical fitness and emotional health . Many people manage these changes well while many others do not. Many people experience a lot of stress, anxiety and even depression during this time. Some people turn to alcohol and sugary foods for relieve while others go as far as isolating themselves from society. All these actions only makes anxiety, stress  and depression worst.

There is a healthy alternative to reducing anxiety, stress and depression; exercise is a great way to stay healthy, active and happy. Exercise can be a great distraction that stops a trend of bad thoughts thus reducing stress, anxiety and depression. During prolonged exercise, the brain produces happy chemicals called endorphin; this is what causes the runner’s high ( a state of euphoric feeling or a state when one feels a sudden burst in energy).

Exercise and mental well being (anxiety, depression and stress)


Anxiety is a situation where one worries about something that is about to happen or an unknown event. Many of us worry every now and then but for some people it is pathological. These people have a hard time controlling their anxiety to a point where it affects their ability to function properly in life.

Depression is a mood disorder that is characterized by feelings of severe and persistent sadness and lack of interest in activities that use to make happy before. Many people with major depressive disorder have a feeling of worthlessness and feel life is not worth living. They cry a lot and tend to isolate themselves from friends and family.

Stress is the feeling of being overwhelmed; it often happens when we feel things are going out of control or when we are under some kind of pressure. In America, stress seems to be a new normal.

Mental well being is a big aspect (or most important) of overall well being and health. Many people can’t hold a job or have a social life because of poor mental health. New moms are especially vulnerable to mental healthy issues because a lot of changes happens in their life after they have a baby; some of which are anticipated but others not. The physiological, social, physical and psychological changes can be overwhelming for these moms especially those with little or no support system.

New moms and many other people can benefit from exercise because according to Nursing & Health Sciences. Mar 2015, Vol. 17 Issue 1, p 42-48. 7 p, common physiological explanations for these effects include:

  1. Increases in blood flow; changes in brain neurotransmitters
    (e.g., nor-epinephrine, endorphin, serotonin).
  2. Increases in maximal oxygen consumption and delivery of oxygen to cerebral tissues
  3. Reduction in muscle tension
  4. Structural changes in the brain.

Psychological explanations of the positive well-being outcomes associated with exercise include:

  1. Enhanced feelings of control; exercise as a “time-out” or distraction from distressing tasks
  2. Improved self-concept and self esteem and opportunities for
    fun and enjoyment

How can I approach exercise

Choose something you will enjoy doing


Since we are talking about mental well-being here, I think you should start by picking out an exercise routine you will enjoy doing; this way, you won’t feel like it’s a chore. It does not have to be structure; it can be a long walk or run in the park.

Set reasonable goals

Take it slow at the beginning and increase speed, intensity and duration as you get better and stronger.  If you set a goal that is too difficult to reach, you might become disappointed and quit before you even started.

Make it a routine

Arrange to exercise at specific times during the day and stick to this routine; soon enough it will become second nature and you will find yourself doing it without giving it much thought. Exercise is good for your health but it is even better when you stick to it for as long as you can.

Eat healthy

Before exercising especially if it is going to last for longer than 20 minutes, eat something that your stomach tolerates well.  You should eat something low in fat, moderate in carbohydrate and protein and drink plenty of fluids because your muscles need carbohydrates, protein and plenty of fluids.

After exercise, it is also good to replenish nutrients especially proteins. A glass of milk or protein shake can do the trick.



People are faced with many challenges in life that can leave them stressed, anxious or depressed. Instead of letting your mental health deteriorate, you can do something to make life relaxing and fun. Exercise has many mental healthy benefits; both physiological and psychological. Get out there and jump, walk or run to better mental health.


Please leave a comment!

53 thoughts on “Is there a link between exercise and happiness?

  1. Yes, you are exactly right. Exercise is good for a lot of things and I know I am happy with I am healthy and working out. It just makes me feel good inside and out. It is definitely a stress reliever as well. You did a great job going over the importance of exercise and how it can be healthy for you. I think once you get in that routine, it just gets easier and easier to stick with it. Great post and thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Matt’s mom

      Thanks for the encouraging words. This will help many make up their minds about exercise for sure.

  2. Exercise has been the healthy way to overcome many of today’s issues. A problem arises when the environment is not suitable to exercise. In my city we had several days with an extremely high radiation and pollution indexes also increased. How can be workout when air quality is not the best? If I want to exercise inside my house, how will I guarantee to breath “fresh air” to take to my lungs? Thanks.

    1. Hi Margaret,

      I am sorry to hear about the extreme level of air pollution and radiation where you live. That will make enjoying the outdoors very difficult if not impossible. In your case, I’ll skip exercising outdoors on those bad days and just do it inside. You might not be able to guarantee clean air inside but you’ve got to breathe anyway.

  3. This is so true! As a mom of 2 and expecting my third exercise is somewhat difficult now but we incorporate it into our daily lives. Not only do I feel better when I exercise mentally and even physically (it really does give you more physical energy) but my kids also benefit by better moods, sleep, eating etc. The part where you talk about increased blood flow and changes in neurotransmitters is so true and such an important thing for new mothers to keep in mind who want to avoid postpartum depression.
    It’s always an excuse to say you don’t have time but really what’s more important?

    1. Hi Annelise,

      You’re right, making excuses doesn’t help at all. Exercise is very helpful to us and even with a tight schedule, we can always make time for exercise.

  4. Your page is filled with great information and the content writing is excellent. I only noticed one error where a question mark was left out (I thought of taking a screenshot, but no attachment is possible here).

    My website is complimentary to yours. I am not allowed to share that with you here, but if you’re interested, I can send it as a private message or email.

    Like-minded people need to stick together, so keep in touch when you can.

    1. Hi Allan,

      I will love to have it in a private message. I’ll be happy to visit your site too. Thanks for the comment; I’ll check the page and make corrections.

  5. I never thought about exercise in this way, so I really have to congratulate you for this approach.
    I’m sure that if many people read your post, the would regard exercising in a completely different way 🙂
    I definitely agree about choosing something pleasant and setting up some goals, I’ve been doing this one for some years and it’s much easier to do something if you have a goal, and if we’re talking about exercising, it’s obviously even easier 🙂
    Thanks for this idea.

    1. Hi Ashley,

      I’m happy my post was helpful. Please spread the word to friends and family about the benefits of exercise so they too might benefit.

  6. I have noticed an improvement within myself when I’ve been jogging a few times, and it does make me feel happy! But when I haven’t exercised for a while, unhappiness tends to creep up on me. So, I can definitely say there is a strong link between excercise and happiness 🙂

    Thanks for your tips and also help on the matter. I think healthy eating is very important because it not only goes hand-in-hand with excercise, but it makes you feel awesome about yourself!


    1. Hi Neil,

      Happy to hear that this post was helpful to you. Keep on exercising and you will continue reaping it’s benefits. Set a reasonable goal and stick to it and before you know it, you will be exercising regularly.

  7. Thanks for the information and I couldn’t agree more. I know when I exercise I feel happier and more relaxed afterwards but did not understand the reasons why, which you explained wonderfully in a scientific way and will use to persuade some of my friends to join me at dance class!
    What is minimum amount of exercise that one should do to increase there happiness? Will a small amount in a busy lifestyle still help?

    1. Hi Louise,

      Dancing sounds like so much fun but I’ve got two left feet and always worry about embarassing myself. It is a really good way to exercise though. I’m happy you are going to encourage friends to join you. A small amount of exercise is good but if you can make it last for about twenty minutes (moderate intensity) then you could reap the benefits .

  8. Awesome article, and I couldn’t agree more!

    About a year ago I started going to the gym every day before work and I can say from experience that it is not only a wonderful stress reliever but I felt energized and more ready to face my day.

    well written and informative, thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Steph,

      That’s such a great routine you have going. What better time to exercise than first thing in the morning? I like it!

  9. You are so right on this!
    It’s good that you wrote about the changes that happen with parenthood, making it more difficult to continue regular exercising. That’s exactly what did happen to me. I know perfectly that exercising would make me feel so much better but can’t find the time for it. I have tried to do some gymnastic when my 2 years old boy is with me but I end up being his jungle gym…

    Anyway, I am sure that soon enough I can manage my daily routines in a way that I can do some workout and stretch, it would make an enormous difference. now I am getting some “happiness” from eating chocolate but I know it’s not the best or healthiest way.
    Keep up the great work!

    1. Hi Maria,

      Very funny experience with your two year old, I can relate. It seems like all boys are like that. I could not exercise at home with my boys. I had to exercise at night after I had put them all in bed. It’s tempting to just want to go to bed after you tuck them in but with some perseverance you can do a 15 minute low to moderate intensity exercise.

      Chocholate is not bad if you eat it in moderation; actually a piece or two is encouraged by many doctors.

  10. Hey great post – and so true. The more people that are fully understand and appreciate this the better.

    I definitely know myself that when I forget to exercise is when I feel at my lowest in terms of energy and mood.

    I definitely agree with picking something you enjoy. Over the winter I snowboard and that keeps me exercising without having to think about. In the summer I’m usually good but have to sometimes remind myself!

    1. Hi Nathan,

      Snowboarding sounds like lots of fun; that’s something I’ll put on my to do list which keeps growing by the day.

      Summers are hot and it can be very tempting to skip your exercise but it is good to motivate yourself to do it.

  11. Hey! Thank you for the article. It gives me some insight about seeing life. I myself think that exercise do have a link with happiness. We need relaxation to release all our stress in our body, and for me, exercise do me best! And it really is make my life more relax, and of course, happier. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Hi RenO,

      I am always happy to share. Staying active is great and when people start getting old they see how good it has kept their body and minds.

  12. Hi Denise-

    Your site is filled with many reasons why we should exercise. Especially for those of us who are over 40! So many of us find every excuse in the book not to exercise (including me); however reading your article has motivated me to set up some reasonable goals to at least walk several times a week, and finally renew that gym membership I’ve been contemplating on doing the last year or two.

    Thanks for the inspiration!!

    1. Hi Mark,

      Amen to that decision. I am happy this helped motivate you. All you need is a starting point, stick to it and before you know it, it will be second nature.

  13. Hi Denise,

    Really nice piece on how exercise can directly relate to a happier mentality. I have come to realize over time that when I don’t exercise or go for a run, I get over come by stress and get a little moody. I love going for a job because it gives me a little time to reflect and most importantly a little time away from modern devices and leaves me to my own thought.
    Really great post and thanks for the reminder.

    1. Hi Xander,

      Thanks for the encouraging words and you’re welcome. Come again soon to check new post on diet, exercise and more.

  14. I have to confess, I didn’t believe there is a connection between exercise and anything. I though the most important thing is to train your mind for happiness and the body follows.

    Even during a prolonged period of depression, I never though if I’d just get up, go for a run, it’ll get better.

    Man, I was wrong.

    Nowadays, when I’m down, I’d just have to eat some healthy food or go exercise. It makes all the difference. The body is as important as the mind, and it’s much easier to manoeuvre it than the other way around.

    Thanks for sharing!


    1. Hi Anh,

      I am happy you found happiness and now know to use exercise, healthy eating and motivation to stay happy. All three are very important because you got to motivate yourself to exercise and you also need to eat healthy to reap the full benefits of exercise.

  15. If you are feeling yucky and can’t get yourself to start your day fresh, physical exercise may definitely help you kickstart your engine and boost up your energy and motivational level again. I actually wrote an article about how important physical exercise is and how beneficial iti is to your mental health not long ago. It may or may not cure depression, but it definitely helped me cope with my depression when I had a severe depression during my teenage years as well.

    1. Hi Joon,

      Very true, it is even tougher to get in the right mood after having just about five hours of sleep. i have noticed that when I wake at 6:30 in the morning to get the kids ready for school, I’m tired and out of energy but within an hour of running after my boy I’m back to normal. I love to link your page to mine if it’s ok. Let me know how

      Thanks for the comment

  16. As a first time mum with a 20 month old, a daily walk-especially in the first year of my daughters life, was an absolute must do for me. It just gave me more energy and clarity about everything, even the times when I’d had hardly any sleep all night breast feeding-the walk was still needed to help me feel as normal as possible. Reading this post has reminded me that I need to step it up again, as I have slacked off a bit lately, and I am feeling it.

    1. Hi Liz ,

      Stepping up your exercise is good. If walking is what you like, try walking briskly. Check out my post on walking briskly for more information.

  17. Hi, I like your title for this post. In my mind there is definitely a link between getting plenty of exercise and being happy.
    Looking through the post, you have some great ideas on what to do, the most important of which I think is setting reasonable goals that can be attained in quite a short space of time. When the goal is reached, it gives a great sense of achievement and you’re enthused to get going on the next goal.
    Changing your exercising around a bit always helps for me. I do most of mine to my favourite music and make sure I change the beat a little to change my pace.
    A good beat will always get you working that little bit harder.
    Also very important is your tip to stick to the same time of day. It soon becomes a habit like you say. A habit becomes part of your ‘paradigm’ and pretty soon you will look forward to that part of the day which is part of your routine. Good post. Ches

    1. Hi Ches,

      I like your idea on changing you exercise and music to vary the pace of you exercise. Doing this will definitely make you exercise routine more exciting. Thanks for the nice idea.

  18. I struggle a lot with trying to be happy and I never thought about how exercise could aid in helping me out in achieving that.
    But Yeah it definitely is annoying to exercise right when you start out but it makes so much sense considering you can relieve so much stress and worry from getting your heart rate up, plus you’ll feel like a million bucks afterwards !
    I definitely have to start watching what I am eating more closely because (especially at night time) i tend to stuff my face just for the sake of it.

    1. Hi Kyle,

      There are many people who struggle with happiness and turn to food to satisfy that yearning. It is good to watch what you eat and then exercise as much as possible. Just take it a day at a time.

  19. I strongly believe that exercise helps you stay happy or at least stay more positive. When you exercise your brain releases endorphins which create a state of happiness or euphoria. In other words when you exercise you feel in a better mood, which of course help people who feel depressed or stressed.

    1. Hi Nahim,

      Very true, exercise is a great and natural remedy for stress and depression. Funny thing is you have more energy after exercising and can use this energy for something good.

  20. Happiness is a difficult concept to measure objectively, but the World Database of Happiness from Erasmus University in Rotterdam has compiled an International League Table based on scientific research into ‘the subjective appreciation of life’. Scandinavian countries seem to come top most of the time – possibly all that cuddling in cold weather! Exercise is also key as it boosts production of brain endorphins – opiate-like chemicals that lift mood. And chocolate contains happy-generating chemicals too, of course…..

    1. Hi Dr. Sarah,

      I agree that measuring happiness objectively is difficult. Each person has a different perception and interpretation of life. Thanks for contributing to this discussion.

  21. Hi,
    You have made some great points here. I know that whenever I get into a good routine of going out for a jog early in the morning that I feel much better throughout the day. It definitely makes me feel happier. Fitting in exercise with a young family can be tough too, so it’s great to have some extra ideas of how to exercise with kids.

    1. Hi Cath,

      I couldn’t agree more. Fitting exercise with family routines is tough but when there’s a will there a way.

  22. Hi Denise,
    As a person who some 18 years ago went through a tough period in my life when I suffered from depression and anxiety, what got me through it was bicycling exercise regimen that I had done for most of my adult life and continue to do so today.

    You mentioned the fact that exercise releases certain chemicals in our brains that do produce stress and anxiety within one’s beings.

    For an absolute fact not only with adults as you mentioned, but too many kids in the U.S. in fact do not get nearly the amount of exercise they need everyday.

    More Americans now than ever can be classified as being obese and unless they take the excessive weight off of their frames, in all likelihood they will die prematurely.

    For some people it could be bicycling as I do, or other cardio activities like jogging/running, rollerblading, swimming, playing tennis or even cross sport activities.

    People need to do something to take care of their bodies plus as you suggested eat healthy as well.

    1. Hi Jeff,

      I couldn’t agree more. Both adults and kids need plenty of exercise to stay healthy. I do my best to keep the kids active by taking them to parks and other places. Sometimes they run around so much I envy their energy. The more active you are the better your overall health is (body and mind).

  23. Yes!, you’re 100% right i find exercising is a great way to relieve stress and i find enjoyment from training in the gym or just going for runs. Must be the endorphin’s.

    Do you find sometimes to get away from the daily problems you escape by going to the gym alone and just putting your headphones in and training?

    Great article if i haven’t said it already.

    All the best


    1. Hello Vinnie,

      It does help in times of stress to exercise. Usually when I find it too hard to concentrate because I’m upset about something, I run a lap or two around the neighborhood and come home relaxed.

  24. I have read that exercise does help to regulate our emotions, and that the increase of serotonin after exercise can make us feel happy. But I find that exercise sometimes stresses me out – any thoughts on this? I really like the list of things we can do to enjoy exercise. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Hi Lily,

      Try to find something you like doing. It doesn’t have to be structured. You can for example play tag with your kids if you have any. You and the kids are sure to get a lot of laughter out of it.

      That is just an example. You can do ten minutes over here and there. If an excise routine stresses you out, avoid it.

      Do you exercise alone or with friends and family; it might make a big difference if you share your exercise with someone close.

      You can also try yoga, to relieve stress.

      Lily, I hope you find your fun exercise soon. One that will stir the happy hormones in your brain.

  25. This is a very interesting article but I am very much interested in the subtopic of how to approach exercise. I will agree with what you recommend when you state that “make exercise your routine and eat health foods”. These points are very much important to keep up good health of your body.

    I thank you


    1. Hi Jose,

      Routine exercise when combined with proper nutrition is the key to a fit body and mind.
      Exercise alone will not improve some mental problems but when combined with counseling and medication, it can lead to a better response.

  26. I agree with this 100 percent as we tend to be so busy with the stress of life, that we forget to focus on our health. I usually find myself so much happier after a workout compared to how I feel when i skip a workout. We need to focus more on maintaining good mental health through exercise. thanks for this review!

  27. I can tell you put a lot of effort into this article because you give so much content and a lot of detail! As a teenage bodybuilder, I love to encourage people to live the healthiest life they can! Personally, working out has a cycle for me; when I put in the effort, and I see results, I feel great, which makes me want to workout more! Having a goal is super important! My goal is to build muscles mass and stay lean, and I have a daily routine to workout early in the morning! Thank you so much for this knowledge, I will come back for more articles like this one!

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