According to the Ipsos survey, as many as 89% of inhabitants of Poland indicate that currently their greatest source of satisfaction is good health. Unfortunately, during the COVID-19 pandemic, one in three Poles admit that they are not too happy or not happy at all. Experts emphasise that an effective and accessible way to improve wellbeing and health is regular physical activity, which releases endorphins, i.e. happiness hormones, and is an important element of health prevention.
– During exercise, our body secretes dopamine, the hormone of motivation, and serotonin, also known as the happiness hormone, which improves our mood and gives us a boost of energy. At the same time, the activity of brain structures responsible for feeling fear decreases. Simply put, during training, we strengthen positive emotions, while reducing those difficult ones such as stress or anxiety – says Mateusz Banaszkiewicz, health psychologist from the University of Social Sciences and Humanities.
Health – a source of happiness and cause for concern
Research by the University of Social Sciences and Humanities and the Polish Academy of Sciences indicate that more than half of Poles feel anxious and nervous about the pandemic.
– For many months, our concerns about health, lifestyle changes or the unpredictability of the current situation have remained at a dangerously high level. Since we know that for many of us good health is a reason to be happy, and the thought of losing it causes anxiety, it is worth taking pro-health measures. The more so that each of us can introduce activities that will strengthen our physical and mental health into our daily routine. In this way we will gain a sense of control over the situation – we do something useful that strengthens our psychophysical resistance. It can be sport that is considered one of the basic elements of prevention and a factor in improving mood, but we can also try meditation or relaxation, which will also help us experience emotions or cope with difficult feelings in a healthier way – emphasises Mateusz Banaszkiewicz.
The MultiSport Index 2020 survey shows that today almost one in two physically active Poles exercise for health or to improve wellbeing. It is not surprising then that activities supporting these two areas are becoming more and more popular. According to the MultiSport Programme data, at the turn of the year, the interest in online yoga classes increased fourfold, while the virtual body and mind trainings have become the most common choice of Yes2Move training platform users in 2021. Physically active Poles are also eager to take part in mindfulness courses – in January there were 30% more MultiSport cardholders who chose this solution than in December.
Physical activity supports the brain
The MultiSport Index 2020 survey also showed that 79% of physically active Poles feel the positive effect of sport on their wellbeing and efficiency.
– Exercise has a significant impact on the work of the entire central nervous system. It stimulates the production of new nerve cells and supports our cognitive abilities. A study by scientists from Stanford University shows that even mild physical activity such as walking strengthens memory and increases creativity by 60%. When we perform our duties with ease, our satisfaction levels increase, and we gain confidence. As a result, our mood also improves – says the psychologist.
In turn, Swedish experts from the Jönköping University have even more optimistic news. They demonstrated that two minutes of moderate or intensive physical activity are enough to achieve these effects. Even after such a short exercise, experts observed both an improvement in memory and creativity, as well as a strengthening of planning and problem-solving skills among the respondents. Importantly, these effects lasted up to two hours after the end of exercise.
– The more efficient functioning of our brain in conjunction with the released happiness hormones has a significant impact on our perception of reality. Thanks to these processes, we are better prepared to receive negative information that we encounter at every step during the pandemic. This is of great importance in the context of our wellbeing – sums up Mateusz Banaszkiewicz.
During the pandemic, due to the increasing threat to physical and mental health, the World Health Organisation changed its recommendations for physical activity. Today, the WHO recommends adults to undertake 150 to 300 minutes of moderate activity per week.