Want to feel good? Exercise. (Right now.)
I had the pleasure of attending a new group exercise class this week. As a busy fitness professional, it’s tricky to find time (and energy) to explore new classes outside of the formats I regularly instruct. Free time was found, and there I was, sweating it out in a new place, breathing heavy amongst new faces, and loving the challenge of an excellent workout. This led me to wonder: Why does exercise feel so hard and yet so good?
You’ve probably heard the phrase “endorphin rush” tossed around after a great workout that both kicked your butt and made you feel ten feet tall at the same time. But, what does that mean? If exercise feels good, why is it hard for people to stick with fitness routines and regularity? Let’s take a minute to break this down.
- When you exercise, your heart rate elevates, your breath becomes more frequent, and your central nervous system reacts to these stressors by moving into “fight or flight” mode.
- To help ease exercise-induced stress, the body releases Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor protein (BDNF) and chemical endorphins. BDNF helps your body adapt to new challenges and helps foster stronger neurological connections in your brain. (Um…amazing!) BDNF is often why you feel more focused or mentally clear after a workout. Endorphins are a byproduct of stress, fear, or pain.
- During exercise, the body produces endorphins and these chemicals interact with signals in the brain. Endorphins help block pain signals, making you feel “in the zone” or even elated, post workout.
- More cool stuff: These types of chemical reactions not only feel good (improve mood, combat depression, etc.); they also help improve productivity outside of the gym.
Sounds great! So why isn’t everyone exercising? Motivation, making time, and know-how can affect one’s ability to get to the gym. However, if you are seeking more activity, recognize that small steps can spark big change. >The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can: Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer, by Gretchen Reynolds (Hudson Street Press), emphasizes how the benefits of exercise can be achieved within the first 20 minutes of a workout. You can help prevent disease, manage weight, improve body composition, and feel good within twenty minutes. Keep it simple; start moving.
- Celebrate the summer weather and head outside.
- Ready your gym clothes the night before a morning workout.
- Join a social recreation group or use social media to stay inspired. Do whatever works.
The benefits of regular exercise are vast and well worth the effort. Need more information? Group exercise classes and online workouts provide a safe environment with proper instruction. Trying something new can initially feel scary, but your body will thank you.
Studies show that the body’s chemical response to exercise is more prevalent at the start of a new program or workout. If you already exercise regularly, a new mode of activity prevents burn out and keeps you enthused for your favorites. (Hence, why I felt awesome in the new class I attended this week.) If you are new to exercise or on the fence about starting a new routine, the hardest part will be getting to the gym/fitness venue. However, once you start moving, you will feel pretty great! Set some small and achievable goals and make a date with exercise today.