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Can happiness be found at the gym? Studies agree it's a good place to start

Can happiness be found at the gym? Studies agree it's a good place to start

February 7, 2020 at 9:20am

By Katie Baumez

The Queen of Harvard, Elle Woods, had it right all along: Exercise makes you happy!

We know that exercise makes you happy

As a Doctorate of Physical Therapy student and certified personal trainer at the FIU Wellness and Recreation Center (WRC), this is a science that I’m very familiar with. 

So, let’s briefly run (see what I did there) through some of the greatest impacts of regular exercise:

Enhanced chemistry 

Exercise comes with better chemistry than Kate and Leo and it doesn’t require a shipwreck.  


According to a study from UC Davis Health System, people who exercised vigorously on a stationary bike showed higher levels of GABA and glutamate in the brain.  These two neurotransmitters help brain cells communicate with each other to regulate physical and emotional health.  

Another study showed that exercise helped increase the levels of BDNF in mice that chose to run on a wheel over 30 days. BDNF is associated with “cognitive improvement and the alleviation of depression and anxiety.” 

And, of course, exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.  

Feel confident

If you ever look around the WRC-MMC and think, “This place needs more mirrors!” You know that you’ve got confidence.  

One study showed a positive correlation between frequent heavy resistance training and global self esteem in a group of women.

Another study demonstrated that increased physical activity influenced self esteem both directly and indirectly among a sample of adult university staff members.

To begin unlocking the benefit of improved confidence, I recommend trying one of the many free group fitness classes offered at the WRC(great fitness classes).

Improved mental health

My daily life is filled with enough beautiful joys and desperate cries for help that a couple minutes in the gym is worth it to even out all these kinks.

A meta-analysis (a study that examines other studies) showed that in eleven studies, exercise was positively correlated with “a significant large overall antidepressant effect”.

As if that’s not good enough, a cross-sectional study of 1.2 million individuals showed that those who exercised had “1.49 fewer days of poor mental health in the past month than individuals who did not exercise”.  I don’t know about you, but I could use an extra day and a half every month of peace, love, and cafecitos, but maybe that’s just me.  

Plus, this same study showed that all the exercise types of these 1.2 million individuals were associated with a lower mental health burden overall!   

So if you too want to be infinitely happier and live forever (results not guaranteed), get your beautiful little self to the gym to do all the squats, presses, and crunches your heart desires. 

If you’re an FIU student, you really must come and check out the Wellness & Recreation Center at MMC. It’s a brand new facility that is only rivaled by Kris Jenner’s house in sheer opulence and grandeur, plus you’ll leave feeling better than me after eating brownies. 

Check out the FIU Wellness & Recreation Center for group exercise classes, personal training, and of course, working out.  


Katie Baumez is a Doctor of Physical Therapy student at FIU and personal trainer at FIU Wellness and Recreation Center. Come say hi at the gym! Or, check out her physical therapy website & @ptptpartyparty, and at