The “runner’s high” is real, and comes from other types of exercise, too. Feeling sluggish, tired, and sleepy? Need more energy to tackle your to-do list? Skip snoozing your alarm or those few extra cups of java and head to the gym to break a sweat.
According to Neil Paulvin, DO , a regenerative medicine doctor with a private practice in New York City, the benefits of exercise for your energy level are twofold. Exercise boosts your body’s fitness and also your mood, both of which contribute to your overall health and well-being. The Physical Benefits of Exercise That Boost Energy
Exercise changes the body physically in ways that help you feel energetic, including:
Increases endorphin levels Endorphins are neurochemicals, or hormones, in the brain that are produced and stored in the brain’s hypothalamus and pituitary gland , Dr. Paulvin explains. Your body releases them when you exercise, particularly when you challenge yourself with moderate-intensity activity such as aerobic exercise , moderate-intensity exercise, and weight training. Research has shown that endorphins rise an hour after exercise. And this post-exercise endorphin release helps relieve pain, reduce stress, and boost your overall sense of well-being, Paulvin says. It’s the “runner’s high.”
Boosts heart health Exercise boosts cardiovascular health , which allows you to have greater endurance throughout the day. For overall cardiovascular health, the American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (such as brisk walking, water aerobics, and tennis) a week.
Improves sleep Yes, regular exercise can help you sleep better and therefore feel more refreshed and energized throughout the day. A study published in the Journal of Sleep Research looked at people with insomnia who engaged in a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity spread over the course of a week. Researchers found that this amount of physical activity was associated not only with a significant reduction in the severity of insomnia symptoms, but elevated mood, too.
Sharpens focus Mentally, we feel more energized and ready to tackle the world after a good workout because endorphins have boosted our physical energy level. According to a study of healthy people aged 65 years old and older published in the September 2021 Clinical Practice & Epidemiology in Mental Health , three sessions per week of moderate physical activity over 12 weeks improved cognitive performance, including an improvement in memory. Another study of older adults published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity showed that 24 weeks of moderate aerobic exercise improved cognitive function, including concentration. While some researchers have speculated that higher intensity workouts might not have the same positive effect, a study in Perceptual and Motor Skills found that a session of high-intensity training improved cognitive function with respect to attention and short-term memory tasks. Britany Williams X Everyday Health: 5-Minute Express Full Body Barre Class
The Psychological and Mental Health Benefits of Exercise That Boost Mood
When you’re more energized, that’s a mood lifter. But there are a few other mechanisms whereby moving your body with exercise can lead to psychological and mental health benefits, too.
“Exercise often improves alertness and cognitive function over the long term, which can improve one’s mood,” says Gail Saltz, MD , a psychiatrist and clinical associate professor of psychiatry at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medicine.
She says breaking a sweat also helps decrease feelings of stress and anxiety, which shifts mood in a more positive direction. Exercise causes the release of dopamine and serotonin , both neurotransmitters that play a role in maintaining mood, Dr. Saltz says. It also slows the release of cortisol , the hormone that flows when we’re under chronic stress. These hormonal changes are good for our brain cells, promoting improved cognitive function and boosted mood.
A large body of research has consistently shown that regular exercise is associated with lower incidence of depression . According to a review published in the journal Neuropsychobiology , exercise is associated with the release of neurotransmitters and proteins called neurotrophic factors, which cause nerves to make new connections, possibly improving brain function and possibly playing a role in the reduction of depressive symptoms.
And heading to the park, the gym or taking a group workout class gets you out of the house and interacting with others, which can ease isolation. Loneliness is nothing to underestimate; feelings of social isolation can have many negative effects on our health and well-being .
A review of studies published in February 2020 in National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine noted that social isolation has been associated with an increased risk of early mortality, dementia, incident coronary heart disease, and stroke. Which Workouts Boost Energy the Most?
Any exercise or physical activity that gets the heart rate up and the blood flowing and releases endorphins is going to raise your energy level. Good cardiovascular exercises will strengthen your heart and give you more stamina.
Saltz recommends any type of aerobic activity to boost your mood and energy. “The exercise you are participating in [ideally would] raise your heart rate significantly for a period of [at least] 30 minutes,” she says. “Doing this three to four times a week has a mild antidepressant effect.”
Studies back up exercise’s benefits for depression. Aerobic exercise, according to a review of studies published in the January 2019 issue of Depression and Anxiety , was found to be an effective antidepressant intervention in adult patients (ages 18 to 65) with a clinical diagnosis of major depression.
But lower-intensity exercise, such as yoga, has also shown potential benefits when it comes to mood. Research suggests yoga may help reduce depression and anxiety . A review of studies published in October 2019 in the Journal of Yoga, Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation confirmed that yoga may be a strong complementary approach to pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy treatment.
Physical activity, even if it’s not intense, routine exercise, was associated with lower levels of depression in a review published in Frontiers in Psychology .
And a study published in September 2018 in the journal the Lancet Psychiatry , which […]