Have you ever noticed that you feel happier after a workout? Well, there is a reason for that: research suggests that regular physical activity may boost your happiness - and your health. It may also help to protect you from serious diseases such as obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis. Regular exercise is an integral component of a healthy lifestyle (most experts suggest that we get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily for optimal health), and according to a recent review paper, exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood; it can help enhance self-esteem and cognitive function; and it is an important contributor for better population health.
There are many ways to get outside and get active, and cycling is a popular choice globally (an estimated one billion people ride bicycles daily - for recreation, transportation, or sport). Cycling is not only a great way to get fit and have fun, research suggests that regular bicycle riding is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle. Cycling may also promote longevity, in fact, a study of Tour de France riders found that they lived to 81.5 years, whereas the general population lived to 73.5 years (that's a 17% increase in lifespan).
No matter your age or fitness level, cycling is also a great option because it is a low-impact, full body workout that engages all the major muscle groups in the body. Cycling also builds strength, stamina, and aerobic fitness and it can boost your happiness. Here are five reasons why grabbing life by the handlebars can make you happier:
1. Boosts Energy
It may seem counterintuitive; however, activities such as cycling may boost your energy and fight fatigue better than a nap. Exercise acts directly on your central nervous system to increase energy, and it delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues to help your cardiovascular system work more efficiently.
2. Decreases Stress
Exercise is a natural and effective way to reduce stress because it can help to decrease cortisol (a stress hormone) and relieve tension in your body. In particular, exercises such as cycling can help get your body into a rhythmic movement pattern that may help relax your mind and recalibrate your body after a stressful event.
3. Enhances Mood
When in doubt, pedal it out! Exercise is both good for your body and sublime for your mind! Happiness and exercise are both independently associated with the release of endorphins (feel good hormones), and the mood-boosting effects last long after your workout (20 minutes of exercise can have mood-boosting benefits for up to 12 hours)!
4. Strengthens Immune Function
Research has shown that people who exercise take half as many sick days due to colds and sore throats per year as compared those who don't work out because exercise may boost immune cells and improve the body's ability to kill bad bacteria and viruses. It can also increase the rate at which white blood cells (the cells that help your body fight infection) circulate throughout your body.
5. Improves Sleep
Regular physical activity is an inexpensive, non-pharmaceutical alternative to improve your sleep. In fact, research suggests that 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week can provide a 65% improvement in sleep quality.
"Exercise may very well be the most effective instant happiness booster of all activities."
~Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky
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