I don't know about anyone else, but the very last thing I want to do when I'm not feeling 100% is to spend 45 minutes to an hour breathing heavily, sweating profusely, and trying to convince myself to not drop my knees during plank position. But as difficult as it is to convince ourselves to squeeze in a sweat sesh when we're feeling down, exercising is probably the best remedy to fixing our no good, very bad mood—and even beyond. The science doesn't lie: Numerous studies have gone on to prove that working out can alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety (and conversely, that a lack of movement can actually result in the development of psychological disorders). In fact, one study discusses how consistent exercise can even be considered a (free) alternative to using antidepressants.
I won't go so far as to quote Elle Woods, but I'm sure most of you can guess the reasoning behind why exercise can directly impact our happiness level: endorphins.
"The endorphin hypothesis posits that the mood elevations and reduced anxiety following acute exercise is due to the release and binding of β-endorphins (endogenous opioids) to their receptor sites in the brain. Studies demonstrate that exercise increases endogenous opioid activity in the central and peripheral nervous system and may induce a euphoric state and reduce pain," according to Harber and Sutton, 1984; Morgan, 1985; North et al., 1990; Thorén et al., 1990. Short answer: Endorphins do, in fact, make you happy.
But are all endorphins created equally? I turned to Erin Oprea, Carrie Underwood's personal trainer (NBD), for her thoughts. While not the most groundbreaking news, it is a positive one: "All exercise is good to boost endorphins, and I would never really rank one over the other since I truly believe that the best exercise is the one that you will do. Find one (or several) that make you happy! Go outside for a walk. Take a salsa or disco class. Jump rope. Just move! All-day movement will promote endorphin release throughout the day and will get you better fitness results in the long run."
That being said, if you're not sure where to start, keep scrolling for three mood-boosting workout moves you can do anywhere, according to Courtney Deri, Teacher & Manager of Teacher Training at The Class by Taryn Toomey.
Jumping Jack and Flush Out
Stand with your feet together and arms at your side. In one motion, jump your feet out to the sides and raise your arms above your head. Immediately reverse the motion back to starting position. Keep your arms straight and engaged at all times. Stay light on your feet, and jump as quietly as possible (this means that your core is remaining engaged). After multiple reps, extend the arms straight out in front of you and "flush" the arms forward as you jump the feet out.
Benefits: Improves stamina, works the calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, deltoids, and abdominals, and can relieve stress.
Modifications: Instead of jumping with your feet apart, step one leg out to the side. Raise your arms overhead with each sidestep. Step the same leg back in as you lower your arms back to your sides, and then step the other leg out to the side, and raise your arms overhead again. Repeat while alternating the steps.
Sitting on the shins or with the legs crossed, extend the arms out to the sides of the body. Draw the shoulder blades down the back, and engage the core. Engage the bicep and triceps by lengthening through your fingertips. Spread the collarbones wide. Igniting the motion from the shoulders, pulse the arms forward and back. You create the amount of resistance during the pulse.
Benefits: Works the shoulders, biceps, and triceps. Opens the chest cavity, the space in front of and behind the heart.
Side to Side
Starting with your feet hips distance apart, step one leg out to the side; then return extended leg back to the center. Repeat the motion extending the opposite leg. Add in a hop as you continue to alternate legs. Engage the core, and let the arms follow naturally.
Benefits: Improves stamina; increases heart rate; works inner thighs and glutes.
Modifications: To take the impact out of the movement, use the motion above but without the hop. Step the legs out to the side while keeping the feet on the floor.
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This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in the place of advice of your physician or other medical professionals. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first with any health-related questions. See our full health disclaimer here.