Get Healthy, Get Happy

August 29, 2015 Last Updated: August 29, 2015

Exercise will add so many positives to your life. On the long list of benefits are strong muscles and bones, a healthy heart, weight management, and improved posture.

For me though, the absolute standout benefit is happiness.

Yes, that’s right, the benefits of exercise go far beyond the realms of your physical being. Exercise will not only give you a healthy body, it will help you achieve a more positive outlook on life.

It is now scientifically proven that regular exercise has mood-boosting effects very similar to anti-depressants, with no nasty side effects.

So what is happening to make your mind feel happier?

When you move your body, chemicals called endorphins are released into your brain. Endorphins send the message to your body that exercise feels good, producing feelings of euphoria to varying extents during or after your workout.

To get started, aim for 5 minutes of exercise everyday; it will feel like nothing, but the habit will be forming.

The exercise session doesn’t even have to be long or at a high intensity. You will get endorphins releasing within the first 20 minutes of moderate intensity exercise.

So since exercise is so good for us physically and mentally, why isn’t everyone doing it, and why are so many people taking anti-depressants?

It’s a simple answer. Creating a regular routine of exercise is a lot easier said than done.

Here is my big tip: start small.

I think people do too much too soon. This can be physically overwhelming and take up too much time. Moderate exercise for 20 minutes daily will give you the happy effect, but I’d say start even smaller. Aim for 5 minutes of exercise every day; it will feel like nothing, but the habit will be forming, which is the most important part.

Then increase to 10 minutes the second week and go up from there until you’ve built up to 20 minutes per day.

The workout below, when done three times through from start to finish, will take around 20 minutes. At the beginning, just do two exercises and the stretch to make up your five minutes.

Before you even realize it, the endorphin release will make you feel happy, giving you a clearer more positive outlook, which means an improved quality of life.

Knee Pull

knee+pull

This is great for your stomach, back, chest, and shoulders.

• Start in a push-up position.
• Pull your right knee to your chest then put it back on the ground. Repeat on the left side.
• Repeat this sequence slowly 10 times, then start to do it quickly, like you are running your knees toward your chest.

Do the fast run for 20–30 seconds.

Descent Push-Up

descent+pushup

This will strengthen and tone your upper body.

• Start in a downward dog position.
• Bend your elbows to lower your upper body toward the ground. This is a lot like doing a normal push-up, except that the top of your head comes closest to the ground.
• Press back to the start position.

Repeat 10–12 times.

Quadruped Reach

quadruped+reach

This is great for your balance, deep core muscles, and back.

• Get down on your hands and knees.
• Reach your opposite arm and leg slowly away from your body as far and high as is comfortable. Replace and repeat on the other side.
• Keep switching sides.
• Keep your body still, like you are balancing imaginary glasses of water on the back of your hips and shoulders.

Do 10 repetitions.

Lean Back

lean+back

This will strengthen the front of your thighs.

• Kneel in an upright position.
• Lean back reaching your arms out in front of you at shoulder height.
• Keep your body straight; the further you lean back, the more you will feel it.

Do 10 repetitions and hold for 30 seconds on the last one.

Down Dog Stretch

stretch1

This will stretch the back of your legs as well as the muscles of your back.

• Go back into your downward facing dog position.
• Rest your right foot behind your left ankle, repeat on the opposite side.

Hold each side for 30 seconds.

Emma-Kate Stampton certifies Pilates instructors and is a certified personal trainer. With 12 years of industry experience, she is passionate about sharing the gift of health and well-being. She is based in Brisbane, Australia.