Jean Huber, LCSW

Why Exercise Makes You Happy and Finding the Right Gym Will Make You Happier

If there was some magical thing that could make you happy, wouldn’t you do it?

You would probably jump at the opportunity.

What if that magical happiness activity was going to the gym and working out?

If you’re already a regular face at the gym, this is great news.

On the other hand, you may not be as thrilled if you usually prefer to sit on the couch and watch Netflix. After all, starting an exercise habit can be intimidating.

But science is solidly in favor of the fact that exercise makes you happy.

Here’s how and why you should seek that happiness booster.

The Science Behind the Study

The belief that exercise makes you happy is one that you’ll hear in a lot of places. Magazine articles and your doctors will all tell you that exercise is great for your physical and mental health. But some researchers decided to test these assumptions.

The study—reported on in the journal Personality and Individual Differences—asked college students to keep diaries of their moods and exercise activities. The researchers noticed a boost in mood that lasted well after the workout. Students reported better social interactions and achieving more, like finishing school projects.

The happy vibes even carried over to the day after a workout!

Why Exercise Makes You Happy

The good news about exercise never stops coming. Other studies have found similarly impressive results about the positive effects of regular exercise. One study from the American College of Sports Medicine found that six weeks of weight training or bike riding relieved irritability and stress in women who were previously diagnosed with anxiety disorder.

The National Institute of Mental Health also looked at the difference between aggressive mice and their more anxious counterparts. They observed that the meek mice were more likely to cower and hide around the aggressive mice. But when the meeker mice could exercise first on their little rodent wheels, they built resistance. They were still deferential to the more aggressive mice but were calmer when alone.

A look at the brain cells showed that the exercising mice had more activity in the parts of the brain involved in processing emotions. The researchers’ conclusion? Exercise is a way to buffer against stress and become more resilient.

Why Finding the Right Gym Makes All the Difference

Of course, you won’t go to the gym if you hate it, no matter how many benefits exercise gives you. If you’re not exercising now, you first need to get over that hurdle. Make it easier on yourself by searching for the right gym (just don’t use the search itself as an excuse to delay the issue.)  

Find a gym that’s conveniently located to either your home or work. You’ll be much less likely to work out regularly if it’s located too far away. One report by a marketing firm says four miles is the magic number most people will drive to get to the gym. Some people will drive a bit further for a more upscale workout destination, like SoulCycle or Barre studios.

Check out the vibe you get when you walk into the gym. Many facilities let you get a free trial pass to see what it’s like to work out there. Is the crowd a diverse mix of people where everyone is welcome? Or does it cater more to serious bodybuilders who are already in good shape?

Similarly, ask yourself what other features you want. If you’re more of a no-frills type of person, you may be happy with a gym that just has weights and cardio equipment. But extra features like a juice bar, sauna, or swimming pool might make you more excited about going to the gym. The important thing is that you will go there and actually work out.

Everyone and their sister is telling you that exercise will make you healthier and happier. It turns out that science backs up their viewpoint. So, why not experience for yourself how exercise makes you happy!

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