How Being Active Can Improve Your Life

The quest for the "perfect" workout seems fruitless until the day you actually find something you love to do. Up until that fateful day you may fall in love with (or realize you hate) spinning, yoga, boxing, or pilates momentarily, but in any case finding the motivation to work out is an uphill battle. We're sent on an emotional rollercoaster, from heading to bed feeling inspired, to waking up in the morning and hitting snooze, to dreading entering the gym after work, to contemplating skipping exercise altogether as you undress in the locker room. Ironically, it's exhausting.

But when you finally reimagine exercise as a necessity – a time to unwind and improve, a moment to the self, an opportunity to reflect and repair – the negative association fades away. Some of us spend years desperately trying to get to this frame of mind. To help you adopt a positive outlook on exercise and change your life for the better, I consulted with Peter Dalgas, CMO and co-founder of ATLETO, the social sports app empowering athletes to sport together; Dr. Abby Kramer, Chicagoland-based chiropractor and holistic physician, and Kathleen Trotter, renowned personal trainer. Believe it or not, daily exercise has the power to make you a happier, more approachable person. Here's how.

1. Positive Mood

"Exercise is proven to increase endorphins (those great feel good hormones our bodies produce), thus helping people feel happier, more relaxed, and self-confident. In a very real way exercise affects our biochemistry on a physiologic level, altering our balance of hormones and neurotransmitters in a positive way," Kramer states.

If you need a mood booster, get off the couch and get moving! Lacking motivation? Trotter suggests, "Create 'mood statistics.' For the next two weeks, rate your mood on a scale of 1 to 10 before and after exercising. One would represent feelings of 'depression and disinterest in exercise and/or engaging with the world.' Ten would represent feelings of 'extreme happiness and excitement to be active and engaging with the world.' I have found that when people rate their mood from 1 to 5 before exercise, it is normally 6 or above after exercise. When I don’t want to exercise, I remind myself that my numbers are consistently higher after exercise."

2. Improved Self-Perception

"Exercise is very commonly a social activity. ... A blend of exercise and community is a beautiful thing. It's a great way to not only promote fitness and a healthy lifestyle, but mean some friends with similar goals and priorities," Kramer states.

The more we exercise, the more we view ourselves in a positive light, especially in social settings. When we're surrounded by others, we want to feel good about the impression we're giving.

According to Dalgas, "When you are in shape, you feel much better about yourself. With an increase in confidence, you will be more likely to be perceived by others in a positive light. People prefer to be around others who make them feel better about themselves, therefore generating a positive circle of friends."

3. More Energy

"It’s no coincidence that the words 'endorphin' and 'morphine' sound similar. When released, endorphins create, a rush of happiness and exhilaration," Dalgas tells me via email. Endorphins, again, contribute not only to an improved mood but increased energy and interest in being social and active.

To that point, Trotter adds, "Regular exercise is good for the psyche; you will be a happier, more energetic, more approachable version of yourself if you make yourself do something - even just for 10 minutes. I always tell my clients that the 'worse their mood the more important their workout.' Meaning, skip a workout when you are feeling happy. Make yourself workout when you are lethargic or grumpy."

4. Greater Mental Stability & Capacity

According to Kramer, "There is a direct correlation between how active a person is and their quality of life. People that move are healthier physically, mentally, and emotionally. A study performed in 2012 proved that adults who could go from sitting on the ground to standing unassisted lived far longer than their same age group peers who could not perform the physical task. Motion is life!"

Exercise contributes to your life in a number of ways, one of those ways being longevity and increased mental capacity. If we don't tend to our minds and bodies, our health becomes at risk. Further, when we fall into sedentary lifestyles, we become complacent within that comfort zone, which quickly becomes an unhealthy habit that's hard to kick.

"Unhealthy physical habits can lead to a decrease in mental health as well. With a weakened mental state all obstacles seems huge, which can stop you from growing as a person," Dalgas states.

5. Higher Sense Of Accomplishment

"Typically, active people are more productive. Exercise increases heart rate, which pumps more blood, and thus oxygen, to the brain. ... Exercising for as little as 20 minutes can improve your memory and information processing," Dalgas confirms.

Again, exercise correlates to a healthy, functioning endocrine system, which translates to stimulation of the mind and memory, making us more productive daily and, thus, feel more accomplished.

"Most of us spend the day quite sedentary. Without regular movement and exercise, risk factors for chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity sky rocket. Exercise is one of the best preventative measures one can implement into their health regimen," Kramer says.

6. Improved Physical Health

"If you don’t sweat on a regular basis, you are more likely to be at risk of becoming obese. Although some people can lead sedentary lives without gaining any weight, there is a chance that they are not as healthy as they appear," Dalgas claims.

It's important to activate your muscles and stimulate your motor functions in order to keep your body in physical shape, which also correlates to improved self-esteem.

7. Better Response To Stress & Unforeseen Circumstance

According to Dalgas, "Physical activity can lead to reduced levels of anxiety and depression." It seems obvious when we recall the direct relationship between exercise and endorphins, and endorphins and happiness.

To that, Kramer confirms, "New science is showing us that there is an elaborate network that connects our cerebral cortex (brain) to our adrenal glands (hormonal glands which respond to stress). This means that the same area of our brain that controls movement, when activated has a direct correlation with calming down our stress response! By moving we are actually helping our body handle stress in a better way. Stress is the root cause of all disease, so this new science is another great reason to implement exercise on a daily basis, especially when under times of stress."

Train your body to better cope with stress and avoid sudden anxiety through daily exercise.

8. Increased Confidence & Social Aptitude

"When we exercise, we feel more confident, which absolutely transfers over to the social world. Exercise also opens up new connections and group of individuals to connect with! For example, if you are a runner, that is an instant connection and topic for conversation with other like-minded individuals. Find a type of exercise you enjoy and you'll quickly find yourself a whole new social network," Kramer tells me via email.

It's refreshing to connect with people on an interpersonal level where alcohol and partying isn't involved. To find common ground with someone outside of those common social situations establishes more reliable, founded relationships. Not to mention, it increases your chances of finding a romantic interest.

9. More Motivation & Personal Successes

"Committing to exercising daily can instill a sense of pride in you, even before being able to physically notice the results you are achieving. Increasing your accountability to physical exercise pushes you to achieve other goals as well. This will encourage you to expand your social success goals and motivate you to achieve personal endeavors," Dalgas states.

Once you start to recognize the change in not only your state of mind, but also renewed energy and physical performance, that sense of accomplishment will encourage you to go the extra mile in other areas of life. It's about time you got that promotion.

10. Improved Bedroom Performance

The physical and mental affects of exercise have been hammered home time and time again, but another major motivating factor is the direct effect on sexual satisfaction and intimacy in romantic relationships.

"Being healthy and in shape improves your overall stamina, which your partner will definitely not oppose," Dalgas says.

11. Consistent Peace Of Mind

"Some movement is always better than no movement. You don’t need to train for a marathon to experience the positive mental effects of exercise. All you need is 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise three to five times a week," Trotter says.

Make it a point to walk your dogs two to three times a day for at least 20 minutes each, or take a long lap around the block during your lunch break, and even then, you will begin to take note of your improved mood and motivation.

To take your exercise routine one step further, Trotter suggests, "Think about how your future self will feel. Before making a snap decision to skip your workout, walk yourself through how you will feel. If I skip my workout, I can relax immediately, but the quality of my relaxation time will be compromised. I will be metaphorically kicking myself the entire time. On the flip side, if I am active, even for 10 minutes, I will feel great and thus enjoy relaxing more."

If you're still finding it difficult to work up the motivation and energy to get moving, Trotter says, "Use the '10-Minute Rule.' Tell yourself you have to move for a minimum of 10 minutes, but if you still want to stop after 10 minutes, you can. The rationale is that breaking the workout into chunks will make moving seem less daunting."

Ten minutes of activity is better than no activity, and chances are, you will continue with your exercise for at least 30 minutes. If you encourage yourself to enforce the "10-Minute Rule" every day, you'll find yourself working your way up to 30 minutes to one hour of daily exercise that's both stress-relieving and essential to your happiness.

It's easy to fall into a sedentary life style, but there's no further satisfaction than that you attain from the first few minutes of plopping down on the couch. Establish an active lifestyle to challenge yourself, set goals, feel accomplished and driven to strive for more out of life each and every day.

Images: Christopher Campbell, Scott Webb, Bruno Nascimento, Dominik Wycisło, Clem Onojeghuo, Markus Spiske, Matthew Kane