Why Exercise makes you Feel Happy

Have you ever wondered why exercise makes you feel happy? A lot of people have claimed that they feel relaxed and happy after a period of working out. Scientists have taken it upon themselves to understand and explain this phenomenon. Studies have shown that people who exercises are happier compared to those who do not exercise. A study done in Nottingham Trent University suggested that the chemical Phenylethylamine is responsible for this reaction. The scientists who carried out this experiment suggested that Phenylethylamine is an anti-depressant which is responsible for the elevated happiness in people who exercise. The chemical is naturally produced in the body and had been directly linked to attention, mood and physical energy. People who are not depressed usually have a high level of Phenylethylamine and phenylacetic acid which is a chemical that results from enzymatic action on the latter. This is proof that the two chemicals are related to state of happiness and depression in an individual. The level of phenylacetic acid increases up to 77% after an individual has undergone exercise. This is the main reason why people who exercise are a lot happier.

How The Experiement Was Performed

The experiment was carried out on twenty healthy men who were around the age of 22 years. The men were each subjected to at least four hours of both moderate and extreme aerobic and anaerobic exercises. However, before the commencement of the study, all men refrained from exercising and a sample of their urine was taken to test the level of phenylacetic acid. This is the most accurate method of testing the levels of the acid in the body. They were then requested to run on a treadmill for up to 70% of their heart rate for 30 minutes. 70% was chosen because it is at this level where moods are believed to change. It was also a requirement for the men to describe or rate how hard they found the exercise to be. This was a very crucial step of the experiment because it marked the baseline of the research. The whole story can be found here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/1565230.stm

Control Group Vs Phenylacetic Acid Group

When the urine samples were analysed, it was found that the phenylacetic acid in 18 men increased while the level of increase was low in two of the men. The phenylacetic acid levels were seen to be high in the men that rated the exercise as hard and low in those who rated the exercise as not very hard. This goes to show that the intensity and level of physical activity id directly proportional to the level of phenylacetic acid which contributes to mood change on an individual. Exercise is therefore positively related with a happy mood.

Increase In Mood, Happier Subjects

According to the researchers that conducted this experiment, there are many factors that might have contributed to the response that they noticed with Phenylacetic acid. This they said is because phenyl acetic acid is a chemical that has a similar structure to amphetamines. They also explained that the chemical might be related to the runners high phenomenon which is linked to the endorphin activity in the brain which is a natural response. However, they explained the importance of phenylacetic acid by differentiating it from endorphins. They stated that the main difference between the two is the fact that endorphins cannot pass from the blood to the brain but phenylacetic acid can. This might explain why there are mood changes at different levels of phenylacetic acid.

Exercise Can Work Similarly

Dr Ellen Billet told BBC news that they found a relationship between exercise and phenylacetic acid. She also said that a drug containing the chemical has been seen to be highly effective in patients suffering from depression. There is however a lot of research that needs to be done on the same subject in order to determine whether different types of exercises have the same impact on phenylacetic acid levels or not. A mental health charity spokesman also added by saying that there is a positive relationship between physical exercise and treating mental health problems. The two therefore encouraged both healthy and mentally ill individuals to exercise on a regular basis because exercise is good not only for improved moods but also in improvement of the general health of a person.

See Another Study Here

In conclusion, the results from the experiment did not conclude that phenylacetic acid is responsible for causing happiness after exercise but they suggested that further experiments and research be done so as to conclude the true effect that exercise has on phenylacetic acid in order to draw conclusive results. Another study was undertaken from NBCI: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1724404/