February 08, 2012
Physically Active People Feel Better

Want to feel better? Get some exercise. Exercise makes you high.

People who are more physically active report greater levels of excitement and enthusiasm than people who are less physically active, according to Penn State researchers. People also are more likely to report feelings of excitement and enthusiasm on days when they are more physically active than usual.

"You don't have to be the fittest person who is exercising every day to receive the feel-good benefits of exercise," said David Conroy, professor of kinesiology. "It's a matter of taking it one day at a time, of trying to get your activity in, and then there's this feel-good reward afterwards."

Conroy added that it often is hard for people to commit to an exercise program because they tend to set long-term rather than short-term goals.

"When people set New Year's resolutions, they set them up to include the entire upcoming year, but that can be really overwhelming," he said. "Taking it one day at a time and savoring that feel-good effect at the end of the day might be one step to break it down and get those daily rewards for activity. Doing this could help people be a little more encouraged to stay active and keep up the program they started."

You might argue this is obvious. Yet many obviously good practices are too often forgotten and not done. So the purpose of this post is a reminder: Think back on all those times you've exercised and felt better. You can get that higher feeling today if you just make yourself do some exercise. Even some quick push-ups will help.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2012 February 08 10:51 PM  Aging Exercise Studies

PacRim Jim said at February 9, 2012 12:01 AM:

I wonder if merely imagining that one has done something to improve oneself would have the same salubrious effect.
I too lazy to find out.

Parker Bohn said at February 9, 2012 4:33 AM:

"People also are more likely to report feelings of excitement and enthusiasm on days when they are more physically active than usual."

I wonder what is the cause and what the effect?
Wouldn't this statement make just as much sense when reversed?

"People also are more likely to report being physically active on days when they have more feelings of excitement and enthusiasm than usual."

bbartlog said at February 9, 2012 8:29 AM:

As I recall, regular exercise is slightly better than antidepressants in treating depression.

Kai Jones said at February 9, 2012 9:18 AM:

Perhaps those of us who don't like exercise, and therefore don't do it much, also don't get the exercise high (it's estimated that only 70% of runners get it, and even for those, only on about one third of their running experiences). Add what we know about intermittent reward and I'm wondering how to add something like the runner's high to motivate me to exercise more.

Ronald Brak said at February 9, 2012 2:06 PM:

Exercise also appears to improve mental function. Personally I know I think better after I exercise. For this reason I have recently decided to embark on an ambitious exercise program by getting rid of my digital watch and replacing it with a wind up one.

Anonymous said at February 9, 2012 4:49 PM:

Why I believe that "exercise stimulates mental function" is a myth:
Do the people who exercise a lot and are full of muscles, seem very bright to you? Not to me.
Do Stephen Hawking, Einstein, Tesla make you think of very buff men?

Ronald Brak said at February 9, 2012 7:03 PM:

There have been studies on exercise and mental function and the benefit does appear to be there and not a myth. But it won't turn one into an Einstien. And not exercising won't turn an Einstien into a dunce. At least not in a hurry, although exercise may protect mental function as people age. And I don't think one needs to be buff to get the benefits, however, Tesla was well known for snapping the limbs of his enemies like twigs, although admittedly this was only after he had taken to exposing himself to x-rays.

Bertie Wooster said at February 10, 2012 7:27 PM:

I don't seem to get "runner's high," but in my own experience exercise improves attitude, confidence, appearance, and intelligence, although it's pretty subtle. After exercising for a year - cardio regularly, strength training intermittently - it was quite obvious that my luck with women had improved dramatically. I'm not referring to one night stand/Casanova/Roissy bullshit. I'm referring to good, attractive women - often quite younger than me - who were real relationship material.

So as for exercise: stick with it, find something you enjoy (low impact like swimming or cycling is a good start) and the payoff will come - probably sooner than you think.

That Guy said at February 10, 2012 9:54 PM:

I try to go on a little stroll now and again, as much for the enjoyment of the scenery and the opportunity for contemplation as for exercise. I don't do much else in the way of exercise for the simple reason that it gives me hemorrhoids. The causative relationship is very clear, because I do not develop this unfortunate malady except when I embark on a concerted exercise regimen, which then for the same reason becomes self-defeating as it is too painful to sustain.

In said at February 11, 2012 12:21 PM:

Ah yes, great point. Exercise is one of the surest ways to live higher and larger. I wonder if those who claim no benefits are overdoing it?

sj said at February 13, 2012 11:19 AM:

I haven't read the paper, but the description seems to show a correlation but not causation. Couldn't the causation be the other way around? People who feel good exercise more?

Peter Spiegel said at February 17, 2012 3:32 PM:

A good book on this is Spark By Dr. John Ratey. All of your comments are nicely covered.

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