Five exercises proven to make you happier, says a fitness expert

Want to maximise your endorphin release? These training styles will do just that

woman doing deadlifts
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Exercise is so much more than just about losing weight and aesthetics; it’s a one-way ticket to helping us feel happier and healthier. Even just as little as 10 minutes a day can lift our mood, according to a 2018 study. Of course, any type of exercise that we genuinely enjoy is good for us and can leave us feeling more upbeat and energised, even something as simple as going for a brisk walk. But, there are some types of exercise that can get your endorphins pumped more than others. Below, Holly Braithwaite, co-founder of the fitness app POW8R, shares the five that'll maxmise your endorphin release, if you're in need of a bit of a boost!


Man doing mountain climbers

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High-intensity interval training – where you do short bursts of intense activity followed by brief periods of recovery – has been on the scene a while, but recently it’s been having a resurgence. “HIIT workouts are fantastic for releasing endorphins because they push your body to the limit in a short amount of time, leading to a surge of the feel-good hormones," says Holly.  It’s time efficient too, as workouts often vary between 10 to 20 minutes, making it easy to slot in around busy schedules. As well as getting those endorphins pumping, HIIT can also burn fat, boost your metabolism, build muscle and is great for your cardiovascular health. 

2. Running

Woman running with headphones on outside

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There’s a reason for the phrase ‘runners high’ and it’s because lacing up your running shoes can make you feel fantastic! Plus, studies have shown that exercising outdoors can actually boost our self-esteem, mood and even relieve feelings of depression. "Running or jogging stimulates both the cardiovascular and nervous systems, triggering a release of endorphins that can last for hours," says Holly. We get that running isn’t the easiest to get into though, so here’s six running tips to help you get started.

3. Yoga

Yin yoga

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If you’re looking for an activity that's a little more slow-paced and mindful, then yoga could be one to consider. According to Harvard Health it can elevate the brain chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is associated with decreasing anxiety and improving our mood. While the International Journal of Yoga says it’s been shown to improve our self-confidence, body image and help us feel relaxed.  "Whether you prefer a vigorous Vinyasa flow or a calming Yin session, yoga can help alleviate tension and enhance your mood,” says Holly. There’s different types of yoga, so it’s all about finding the one that’s right for you.

4. Dancing

Group of women dancing

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Is it possible to stay in a grump while dancing? Never! "Dance workouts, such as Zumba or dance aerobics, can make exercising feel like a celebration, releasing a flood of endorphins to lift your spirits," says Holly. According to researchers, it boosts all four of our feel-good hormones: dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins. If the music is upbeat, has positive lyrics or a fast tempo, even better. As a study by the British Academy of Sound Therapy found just listening to just nine minutes of this type of music resulted in increased energy levels and a boost in confidence.

5. Group classes

African American athlete and Caucasian athlete doing shoulder biceps and pectoral exercises with a weight ball in gym

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Group settings aren't just great for helping you overcome gymtimidation, they're one of the best ways to alleviate your mood too. While Research shows that happiness is contagious, working out with others can be fun, motivating, not to mention it's a great chance to meet new people. "The social aspect of group fitness really can't be underestimated," says Holly. "The camaraderie and shared energy can significantly amplify the endorphin release."

Bryony Firth-Bernard
Staff Writer, Active

Bryony’s T3’s official ‘gym-bunny’ and Active Staff Writer, covering all things fitness. In her spare time, you will find her in her natural habitat - the gym - where her style of training is a hybrid of bodybuilding and powerlifting. Bryony loves writing about accessible workouts, nutrition and testing innovative fitness products that help you reach your fitness goals and take your training to the next level.