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How Exercise Promotes Positive Well-Being

Exercise can also be used to enhance well-being in people who already feel mentally healthy. Increased physical activity has been found to enhance mood, improve energy levels, and promote quality sleep.

There are several reasons why physical activity can be good for psychological well-being:


  • Exercise decreases stress hormones. Exercise decreases stress hormones like cortisol. It also increases endorphins—your body's ‘feel-good’ chemicals—giving your mood a natural boost.5

  • Physical activity distracts you from negative thoughts and emotions. Physical activity can take your mind off of your problems and either redirect it on the activity at hand or get you into a zen-like state.

  • Exercise promotes confidence. Exercise can help you lose weight, tone your body, and maintain a healthy glow and a smile.6 You may feel a subtle but significant boost in your mood as your clothes look more flattering and you project an aura of increased strength.

  • Exercise can be a good source of social support. The benefits of social support are well-documented and many physical activities can be social activities as well.7 So whether you join an exercise class or you play softball in a league, exercising with others can give you a double-dose of stress relief.

  • Better physical health may mean better mental health. While stress can cause illness, illness can also cause stress. Improving your overall health and longevity with exercise can save you a great deal of stress in the short run (by strengthening your immunity to colds, the flu, and other minor illnesses) and the long run (by helping you stay healthier longer, and enjoy life more because of it).


  • Exercise provides a buffer against stress. Physical activity may be linked to lower physiological reactivity toward stress. Simply put, those who get more exercise may become less affected by the stress they face. So, in addition to all the other benefits, exercise may supply some immunity toward future stress as well as a way to cope with current stress.

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