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Exercise and happy brain waves

Ever wonder why you feel so much better after a run or a walk? Why biking to the coffee shop turns out to be way more fun than driving there? It’s all about endorphins, good chemicals that the brain releases during exercise, which ease pain and produce a feeling of comfort and euphoria.

When you get up and moving regularly, it not only helps lower your blood pressure and bad, or LDL (low-density lipoprotein), cholesterol, it also jump-starts a dose of these “happy hormones,” which function as natural painkillers and anxiety-relievers. Experts say exercise boosts your energy level, too, and encourages the nerve cells in the brain to secrete neurotransmitters, such as feel-good serotonin. One study even found that exercise helped relieve clinical depression just as effectively as a popular prescription antidepressant.

Daily exercise is a good stress-buster as well. Researchers found that it improves your ability to relax and sleep, concentrate and remember things. Exercisers have been shown to fall asleep more quickly, feel more refreshed and have sharper memories. Beyond that, regular physical activity enhances your self-esteem, so you end up both looking and feeling better.

You should exercise for 30 minutes on most, if not all, days of the week to reap the most benefits. You may be able to recharge your endorphins with a brief walk, but if you don’t keep working out consistently on a long-term basis, the physical benefits of exercise can diminish within months. Your heart strength, muscle strength and level of good, or HDL (high-density lipoprotein), cholesterol will decrease, and blood pressure and body fat will increase. To stick to your exercise program, try to listen to music and add variety. Develop a circuit of several different workouts you enjoy, such as swimming, walking and aerobics, so you won’t miss your daily recommended serving of endorphins.