The other day as I was running along my mood took a complete 180. I left my house feeling bad about myself and grumpy and a few miles in my whole perspective on those things had changed. The change that took place was more than any amount of swedish fish could have done.
I have always known that running puts me in an incredibly good mood (almost too good obviously) but I really wanted to learn about WHY running makes people happy so I turned to science to find out (oh yeah, and I am teaching about exercise tomorrow so I thought I would share with you some of the things I was going to be teaching my students).
(information and quotes from Runner’s World, ‘The Runners Body’)
A few of the reasons that running makes us happy:
1. “Most antidepressant medications work by increasing brain levels of neurotransmitters that have a positive effect on mood. Exercise, by wholly different mechanisms, increases the availability and effectiveness of the very same chemicals.”
2. “Exercise reduces depressive behaviors by increasing levels of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter related to alertness and self-esteem, in certain parts of the brain.”
3. “Exercise has also been shown to increase dopamine storage in the brain and to stimulate the development of new dopamine receptors in the brain’s mood centers.”
4. “Exercise stimulates neurogenesis, the growth of new brain cells, which is another phenomenon that elevates mood and improves learning capacity.”
5. “Running also greatly reduces the negative effects of stress on the brain and the rest of the body.”
6…….Most important of them all……..”Exercise boosts serotonin, the best-known mood-related neurotransmitter, which is also targeted by the best known antidepressant medication, Prozac.”
-As I was thinking about these things it made sense to me why I was not nearly as happy as I am now when I was injured. Of course running and exercise cannot and should not be the center of our universes but when our bodies and mind get used to this daily amount of serotonin and norepinephrine, of COURSE we aren’t going to feel as happy when we go without it.
-If you are struggling with enjoying working out/running, just think about all of these wonderful chemical releases that are going on in your body that you may not feel during your workout but you KNOW you will feel after your workout!
A study done in Athens in 1993 found that women who had exercised had a better mood (for a full 24 hours after the workout) compared to those that did not work out. A FULL DAY of benefits from just a little time working out….yep, sign me up! (study also found in the ‘Runners Body’)
Exercise is something that WE are in control of. We know how it makes us feel, we are in control to do it whenever we want and for however long we want. Knowing that we are in control of something that we know will make us feel less stress and instantly better improves our overall happiness!
What do you think about the stuff above? Agree, disagree? Have you noticed a difference in your happiness from your pre-working out days and now? What about during an injury or time away from running/exercise….notice any differences?
Do your coworkers/family/friends/roommates notice a difference in your moods when you do or do not workout?
-Yep, Billy usually hides in the closet when I go without working out for too long;)
Totally agree! I wish I could bottle endorphins up and sell them…would definitely make a killing!
My mood definitely gets better when I run. If I don’t get a workout in, I am so grumpy even I don’t want to be around me!
I am a neuroscientist so I know those things are true!! Nice job finding some reliable facts, that sounds pretty spot on. Feel free to shoot me an email if you have any questions or want more info about this for your talk!
Hey Lara! I would love any information you have that would help convince my high school students the importance of exercise. Thank you so much!
Katherine @ Neon Blonde Runner
I AGREE 100%
Running is the BEST DRUG in this world!
Yes! I completely agree. The other day I came back from my longest run in four months (just overcoming ITBS) and felt so amazing! Its clearly an antidepressant.
I agree completely — I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression for several years and know firsthand that exercise can have a huge effect on mental health! Exercise has helped me stay off antidepressants and keeps me feeling like myself. :)
I am SO happy that exercise has helped you so much! PS I LOVE your blog, your cookies made me drool! I tried to leave a comment on your blog but I think it went to spam:(
Danica @ GirlsThatRun
Totally agree! The feeling of accomplishing something puts me in such a great mood and when I go too long without a good workout I get super cranky. Love this post!
Elizabeth @ reads recipes runs
LOVE! I totally agree, I am pretty much a giddy idiot post morning runs. It’s awesome.
The mood lift became glaringly apparently when I was hurt and couldn’t work out. And it also helps to identify when I am over-training.
The Kidless Kronicles
I am definitely a different person when I don’t work out and it is NOT for the better. I really got depressed when I first got injured and now I am battling it again. Of course I still exercise and it makes me happy, but nothing seems to give me that runners high I crave so badly! Probably because they don’t have elliptical and stair climber races I can sign up for and win ;) Can you imagine? Ha!
I WISH I could wholeheartedly agree! Unfortunately, I’ve battled with depression for years now, and exercise hasn’t been the miracle cure I’d hoped it would: I still take anti-depressants and still have some rough days.
BUT exercise does something else for me: even if the high i get after a good workout isn’t enough to counteract the bad feelings sometimes, it IS something i can feel proud of. And on bad days, being able to say “hey, i accomplished something really great” means a lot.
Exercise didn’t solve my problems. It didn’t “fix” anything. But it DID contribute to an overall positive outlook. It gave me things to work towards and things to look forward to in the future. It gave me little mood boosters and little accomplishments that are glimmers of hope, when sometimes I feel pretty hopeless.
ahahaha this comment ended up sounding like kind of a downer, hey?!! i swear it was meant to be a happy one :)
Thank you so much for sharing that with us Lizzi! I agree with you, exercise isn’t a cure all but it sure does HELP us to think more positive and have that feeling of accomplishment! Really, thank you so much for telling us about what you have experienced!
Lizzie I am still on an antidepressant as well. Exercise helps me feel more positive but some people definitely have a chemical imbalance that really requires medication. Just want you to know you are not alone!
Lizzi and Shannon, don’t feel bad about taking an antidepressant. It sounds like you guys are doing a great job taking care of yourselves. Keep up the good work! Like Janae said, thanks for sharing. You probably made other people feel less alone.
I can’t speak for Lizzi and Shannon, but from what they wrote, it doesn’t seem like they feel bad for taking antidepressants. I certainly don’t. Just like Shannon stated, my brain actually does have chemical imbalances that require medication. Why would anyone feel bad about that? Would you say don’t feel bad about taking medication to a person with sickle-cell anaemia? I doubt it.
AGREE! This time of year is tough with all the darkness, but even a treadmill run (gasp) while watching the pilot of Once Upon a Time put me in a better mood last night.
Great topic! Hope your students enjoyed it.
Kerry @ Half Healthy, Half Nuts
I totally believe this!! I haven’t run in a week (been on vacation) and I am grumpy and feel the NEED to exercise!! Endorphins rock!!
I have a much better mood when I work out. Even if it is for 20 minutes. I even sleep better after I work out. When I don’t work out, I am cranky and don’t sleep well. Working out is now a necessity for me.
I’ve actually been thinking about this for a little while. Just this morning after my hour workout I was tired and blah and i was thinking: I thought exercise made you happier and feel better, I just want to go back to bed. Trust me to have the opposite results. I started a fitness/weight loss Bootcamp 5 weeks ago so I’m actually working out on a daily basis (compared to my twice a year in the past ;)) and some days I feel great all day and other days (like today) I’m dragging and grumpy!!
After almost every run (or workout) I have a tremendous runner’s high. Friends of mine tell me all the time they haven’t experienced it, but for me it makes even sloowww, achy runs worthwhile.
I loved reading this. I just had this talk with my mom about why I need to run. Loved this and agreed. But I also agree with Lizzy that its not a cure all but can really help. It’s nice you have closet space for your hubs to hide in, mine usually hides outside in the cold till I have fallen asleep.
There is definitely a difference, and I love learning about the chemistry behind it (since I’m a science nerd)! I think part of why depression is at an all-time high nowadays is that everyone is so sedentary. Not that people are lazy, they just have jobs where they have to sit down most of the day. I feel like this, coupled with a lack of sunlight, can really mess with the mood!
Josie @ happycorredora.com
I definitely agree. I get happy when I run most of the time and it makes me feel better about my day and diminish the level of negative thoughts etc. I also think the opposite is true: if I can’t work out for a few days I get really crabby and unhappy.
Unfortunately it is not a cure all and I am sometimes still sad or lonely etc after a run, and it is tempting to reach for the Ben and Jerrys instead of putting on your shoes. But making an effort to get out- the odds of boosting your mood definitely make it worth it. (then you can eat the ice cream afterwards ;)).
J @ ... semplicemente j ...
I so believe it … it is just sometimes hard to get back to the swing of things after an injury … too easy to find excuses … but when I am on a roll … nothing beats the feeling, the happiness I feel after a run!
Agree! Since I have started running I have felt much less stressed- which is ironic because we have had more stressful situations and experiences SINCE I started running nearly two years ago.
But I still want swedish fish.
Running has been an absolute game changer for me in this department. It has given me so much that i almost feel I owe it something. I guess that is why I smile, savor, dance, enjoy every step of races I sign up for (my hubs says it is because i don’t run fast enough:) )but really it is an arena I feel i can somehow express thanks for all it has done for me.
I believe it! I feel better after just getting outside to walk the dogs for even a few short minutes. When I don’t workout I get super antsy and anxious. I know it’s not great, but I’m almost disappointed in myself when I don’t exercise (except for planned rest days), which affects my mood because I know just getting out there would make me feel better!
Katie @ Peace Love and Oats
I completely agree! I am so much happier when I get to exercise! People think I’m crazy for running and that I’m just harming my body, but it makes me so happy!
I agree. I feel far less anxious and depressed when I exercise on a regular basis. I am struggling with a lot of negative thoughts today and I am happily awaiting my husbands return home so he can be on kid duty and I can get to the gym. I will be lacing up my running shoes when he walks in that door in the morning!
Shannon, I hope that your hubby gets home quick tomorrow morning so that you could go fight off those negative thoughts with a workout!
Thanks Janae I know it will help :) Tomorrow is another day! :)
Julia @ The Bosky Blog
I totally agree with all the above!
My attitude has been in the tank because I can’t run right now, and until recently when I started really committing to ANY exercise do I feel normal again. I use to think it was just running that could improve my demeanor.
and YES everyone totally notices a difference. Sometimes when I am a crankster for no reason my work spouse will ask me if I missed my workout today.
Yes, yes, yes….. And YES! If I don’t get a sweat session in daily I am not a fun person to be around. Exercise, running especially, relaxes me! No joke- exercise is my drug of choice!
Exercise totally makes me happier! I fully believe the biomedical science but I also think there are psychological benefits that go beyond the chemical reactions. Feeling like I did something healthy and that I’m strong and that I accomplished something also adds to the happiness that I feel!
Erin, that is an excellent point and I totally agree with the psychological benefits of accomplishment and confidence that come along with exercise.
Working out definitely makes me a much happier camper. I have always considered the mental health benefits of exercise were more motivating than even the physical benefits. My first true form of dedicated exercise was swim team my freshman year in high school and let me tell you, my self esteem was totally boosted. Yeah, I had chubby thighs and I broke out but it didn’t matter to me in the way it was previously earth shatteringly devastating.
It also helps me sleep soooo good, which is so much better than relying on some sleeping pill that can give you weird dreams.
My husband does always say “Will you go for a run so your hormones like me again?”
BAHAHAHA, Billy does the same thing!
I couldn’t agree more! I wish everyone understood how amazing endorphins are!
Lyn @ FueledBySalad
I definitely agree with everything. Ever since I took up regular exercise and running, I find myself happier and just a better person!
definitely agree! i am always in a waaaay better mood after i run :) when i was injured a year ago, I for sure noticed a difference!
I agree I feel lethargic and grumpy when I don’t work out.
Exercise greatly improves my mood! My husband would definitely agree.
um yes, for sure! i just think better. its like my mind is finally free! I get smarter. haha.
chelsey @ clean eating chelsey
I DEFINITELY agree with everything! I always am in such a better mood when I exercise.
I totally agree. Usually when i don’t want to run I’m in a grumpy mood, so I try to convince myself to just do it because I’ll be happy afterwards. It usually works.
Kate @ Chasing It
TOTALLY 120% AGREE!!!! endorphins are the greatest thing ever…and I definitely get cranky and am more easily upset when I can’t work out (doesn’t happen on planned rest days…but like when I’m forced to rest cuz of injury). eeeeveryone around me notices too haha, I need to work on that….
Brittany @ GOtheXtraMile
Oh my gosh, this is so true. I agree with everything! I ALWAYS feel my best after I workout. If I don’t I feel so sluggish and grouchy! HAha. Such interesting info here :D
Couldn’t agree with this post more! I HAVE TO exercise.. period. This is what keeps me sane.
I completely agree. As a pharmacist I see many people take antidepressants, and quite a few do not exercise. I always wonder if they could eliminate the need for the drug by changing their diet and exercise. And of course I always recommend adding exercise to their regimen!
Real quote from my husband this past summer: “Um, when’s the last time you went running?” He was hinting at my sour mood. I’m a big believer about the mood boost! I need it. I love it. I gotta have it. Now I want ice cream for some reason.
BAHAHA!! Our husband’s sound a lot alike and so do we. I hope you got some ice cream tonight:)
[email protected] Girl on the Run
well that would explain why I’m so cranky when I’m unable to run ;)
I agree, my friend! I know not everyone is as fitness-inclined as others (like us!), but I can’t imagine my life without fitness…including running, but also yoga, Pilates, biking, etc. I just love to be active. And yes – my Billy notices if I haven’t worked out – he suggests I go to a yoga class. ;)
This is 90% of the reason I work out. For my mental health! I’m a crazy lady without a good sweat sesh. I would rather work my butt off than take meds. ;). Been there, done that. I workout everyday to be a better person and a happy person. The end.
Cait the Arty Runnerchick
oh, it’s hilarious (not really) because any time i have a forced break from running i tell people i’m just not gonna be myself. in high school my dad once looked at me and said deadpan, “i know that the break is gonna be tough for u, but can u please just try and make it as easy as possible on the family.” hehe
Couldn’t agree more- exercise is like a drug…it really does wonders for my mood! Regardless of how intense my workout is, it ALWAYS has a positive impact on my mood…which is probably why my favorite mantra is “you’re only one workout away from a good mood”–> true story!
I needed to be reminded of this! I took a picture of an add recently that said “happiness is best measured in kilometres (or in your case; miles) and this post sums that up!
Corey @ Learning Patience
I totally agree girl! Running always makes me feel better! Great post….
xoxo from Trinidad
Completely agree – there are days I get home from work in the most foul mood ever… and don’t even want to go for a run. But then I do, and I end up cranking out more miles than I even set out to do, and return to the house a happier me. I definitely notice a difference in my mood when I don’t work out – I can be quite the grump (sorry hun).
Great post Janae! And loved the list. Lots of thoughts. First of all, anti-depressant medications work no better than a placebo in most studies. (an issue I’m tackling in my next novel, Placebo, expected spring of 2013)
Second: if they packaged up the high you get from a run you could sell it at the local dope house, and make some sweet cash. The only difference is, with running you have to work for the high, so it’s one not everyone will bother with. Natural highs get better over time, building on themselves; unnatural highs get worse over time. (not saying folks take Prozac to get high, by the way, and that they haven’t saved some people from serious depression, but running is not a friend of the pharmaceutical giant.) When we do things that are good for life, we get rewarded. Life wants to go on, so when we strengthen ourselves, we are given a high. Life has it’s own instinct and own built in reward system. That’s the reason for the pleasures of sex, food, being physically fit….. if it didn’t feel so good, there would be a lot less people and even more obesity. Babies and puppies are cute so we don’t eat them.
As someone who has experienced most of the highs that the world has to over, I’m so glad to only have running (and skiing and biking and lifting, but mostly running) as my go-to drug of choice. Running is a true spiritual experience that detoxes the brain, enrichs the soul, strengthens the body, rearranges emotions, and lets all the pieces fall into place so that after the run I’m a new being.
Add to that experience the communal feeling of a running event, and blasting yourself past previously superficially imposed barriers, and much better than prozac.
Okay, that was a way too long blabbing comment. Sorry for the near-drunken rambling.
i totally agree (except i think you mean a 180 turn… if it was a 360, you’d end up right back where you started! :) ) when i don’t get a workout in, i get totally cranky. especially after a long work day, i need something to burn off my “negative energy” (or that’s what i call it anyways).
Yep, you are right…..how did I miss that one:) I like how you say you need to burn off your ‘negative energy’ because that is exactly what running does for me too!
Jodi @ Southern Flavored Life
Totally agree with every single bit of this post. I try to explain this exact thing to my friends/family, but they’re just a bunch of lazy bums.
I also am like 100% positive that running makes me feel better (happy-wise) than ANY other workout, even if it’s intense.
Sabrina @ Radioactive Runner
I definitely agree! I bet no one has said after a workout “man, I wish I didn’t just do that”.. because of how GOOD they feel afterwards, it always pays off.
I definitely notice a difference in myself when I workout and I’m sure G-Man does too.. I NEED to get my workout in daily and if I wake up early to run, don’t mess with my schedule until I’ve got my workout in lol.
I agree. It helps me stay sane. I think my hubby is glad I run too. ;)
Yes, I notice a difference big time! I notice it in my mood, how well I sleep, my eating habits are better, I am more focused… everything is better when I run/workout.
Hubs notices, too.
RANDOM: Did you say you were on Pinterest??
Yes!!!! Find me….hungryrunnergrl
YES!!! You nailed it on the head, Janae!!! That feeling after you have a really great workout; There is absolutely nothing like it. :) And that is my motivation whenever I’m feeling particularly lazy/ not in the mood to work out! Too bad I’ve been so sick this weekend, I haven’t been able to work out AT ALL! Such bad timing, since thanksgiving is in t-minus 2 days!!! Ahhh!! ;)
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