Being happy might have more overall health benefits than one might think, according to a study published by the American Heart Association (AHA).
The study showed that people diagnosed with heart disease who have a positive attitude are likely to exercise more and live longer than those who are not as optimistic.
Researchers used a questionnaire to determine the moods of 600 heart disease patients in a Denmark hospital. Five years later, the study found that patients who were more positive exercised more and had a 42 percent less chance of dying for any reason. The study also found that having a positive attitude and exercising cut the risk of heart-related hospitalizations.
“Patients who exercise release more endorphins than those who do not,” says Dr. Dory Jarzabkowski, a cardiologist with Advocate Heart Institute at BroMenn Medical Center in Normal. Ill.
Endorphins are the “feel-good” hormones released by the brain that trigger a positive feeling in the body, states the AHA.
Time has shown that optimism alone does not affect the outcome of a patient’s health, but when comparing positive and negative patients, those that were positive tended to exercise more, according to the AHA.
“Negative patients tend to find excuses not to exercise, so their endorphin levels are not elevated like those who do exercise,” Dr. Jarzabkowski says. “Getting the natural endorphins flowing with exercise is better than any pill.”
If you are having trouble jumpstarting a new workout routine, try these tips from the AHA:
- Work out at work or home. Ten to 20 minutes of light exercise or walking is a way to ease into it and can help kick-start a longer workout routine.
- Keep a workout log. Tracking goals can help you stay on target. It is also a great way to add some variety into a workout routine.
- Try different strength training routines. Introducing new strength exercises into a routine, such as Pilates or using resistance bands, helps work different muscle groups.
- Mix it up with relaxing workouts to reduce stress. Yoga and Pilates are a great way to reduce stress and add a calming element into a workout.
- Make it fun! If exercising is becoming a drag, change up the workout. Instead of a stationary bike or treadmill, take your workout outdoors for a change of scenery.
If you have heart disease, Dr. Jarzabkowski recommends speaking with your physician or cardiologist before starting an exercise regimen.