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Get Fit

Even 20 minutes of walking can improve your mood.

©iStockphoto.com/barsik

One of the most common tips offered for boosting happiness it to sweat your way to a smile. The jury is still out on the exact relationship between exercise and happiness, but the general idea is that exercising reduces the amount of cortisol, a stress hormone, in the blood and pumps up the volume of endorphins. When endorphin hormones enter the brain, they block receptors normally reserved for pain, which is why we associate them with positive feelings.

A recent study from the University of Bristol concluded that participants who exercised before work or on a lunch break were indeed calmer and less stressed than those who didn't [source: Daily Mail]. Not only were the members of the active group in better moods, they also met deadline demands more efficiently and exhibited improved interpersonal skills. Interestingly, the active group designed its own workout routines, rather than following a prescribed regimen. Despite variations in intensity and duration, about three quarters of them felt better [source: Daily Mail]. Similarly, in 2008, the American Heart Association also published findings that just 20 to 30 minutes of walking two to three times per week can make you happier [source: USA Today].

In addition to cheerier outlook, exercise also lowers blood pressure and reduces your risk of diabetes and heart disease. It takes discipline to establish a regular exercise habit, but the payoff is manifold.

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