What’s happening in your brain when you work out
Exercise and happiness go hand-in-hand – but the challenge is to stop thinking of it just as a way to enhance physical attractiveness and recognise its many other body-boosting benefits. ‘You’ve heard about those cheery endorphins that are released through exercise,’ says celebrity fitness trainer and wellbeing coach Dalton Wong, ‘they’re what makes you feel good after a workout.’ As soon as your heart rate elevates, your body almost immediately releases dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin.
These neurotransmitters deal with feelings of reward, alertness, contentment and wellbeing, which explains why you always feel so much better after a workout. What’s more, the brain secretes ‘brain-derived neurotrophic factor’, a protein found in the regions of the brain that control eating, drinking and body weight and is associated with the development of neurons within the brain.
The effect of all these chemicals has been compared to the ‘high’ experienced when taking opiates – you feel euphoric and relaxed.
It’s so much more than calories burned
If your primary goal is to lose weight, you’ll struggle to enjoy exercise because you’ll view it as an uphill struggle. Instead of working towards losing lbs, focus on boosting your health and wellbeing. ‘This will change your mindset and encourage you to train from a place of abundance. All changes are made in the mind before the body,’ says Dalton, ‘so think from the inside out. It’s not possible to have a fit body without keeping it healthy, and it’s difficult to get healthy if you’re not happy.’
When you increase your fitness levels and VO2 capacity (that’s the amount of oxygen your body needs to convert fuel to energy), your body and mind become more alert and able to deal with stress.
Which exercise is right for your mood?
While it’s all well and good to head to the gym when you’re feeling under pressure, it’s important to know which exercises counter stress, and which ones will exacerbate it.
If you’ve had a big weekend, it might not be the best idea to go for high intensity training. But if you’ve had a relaxing weekend, a HIIT session on a Monday morning will be the perfect antidote, because you’ll be in the right state both physically and mentally to handle the stress of the class.
‘Don’t underestimate the connection between a healthy mind, body and soul – far from a cliché,’ says Dalton, ‘it’s the basis of a happy and invigorated life.’
3 ways to supercharge your gym sessions
Percol Fairtrade & Organic All-Day Americano, 200g, £2.92, Waitrose
Drinking caffeine up to two hours before exercise increases fat-burning.
Linwoods Shelled Hemp, 225g, £7.99, Holland & Barrett
Low in fat, with a complete amino acids profile, hemp seeds are little powerhouses that boost your energy.
Aduna Baobab, 80g, £5.99, Aduna
Add this superfruit powder to your smoothie to fuel performance. Taking 4tsp a day provides 33% of your vitamin C requirement.