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Joy of Exercise: And Other Mental and Psychological Benefits

Let’s be real.

Magazines and American glorification of thinness aside, there is something else that motivates us to work out. For those who struggle with their weight, weight loss is the primary goal. But there are other byproducts of exercise that do not nearly get enough attention.

Exercise increases the release of endorphins. As Elle Woods taught us in Legally Blonde, ‘endorphins make you happy and happy people don’t kill people.’ Happy people are also more optimistic and feel more empowered to reach their goals, and be the best version of themselves. Exercise enhances one’s mood while decreasing anxiety and depression.

I remember when I had an injury a few years ago, a family member of mine who wasn’t as avid of a dancer and jogger as I was, didn’t understand why it was so hard for me to take a break from exercising for 4-6 weeks. I told her, if I could sleep through this period – fine, but go about my full-time job and day-to-day tasks without this mental and energetic pick-me-up? Uh – nope!

Exercise also sharpens the mind. As a college sophomore I went for a run prior to each of my organic chemistry exams. I believed that it was likely raising my scores by at least one letter grade. I recall thinking one morning: How great would it be to inspire and motivate others to be more physically active and live their best, smartest and fullest lives. The following Summer I worked under a nutritionist and my journey to become a registered dietitian nutritionist began!

This afternoon, I took a pleasant autumn jog to the tunes of Sia. When one of her great beats came on, I began skipping in the street. [Fear not – skipping burns just as many calories ;)]

Skipping, a common practice for children, somehow becomes obsolete in adulthood. But why do children have a monopoly on innate joy?

I am a deep believer that at the root of eating and living well is the joy of being alive.

So skip a little! What do you have to lose?!

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