Have you ever dreaded a workout only to complete it and feel totally energized and happy afterwards? It's not just because that new Aqua Zumba class you just tried was fun—there's biology behind your reaction, and it happens with all workouts.
According to an infographic from LeisureJobs, when you work out, your body recognizes that exercise as stress. To combat that stress, your body releases endorphins and BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a protein that lets your brain feel "inspiring post-exercise feelings of wellness and relaxation." Both BDNF and endorphins (which minimize discomfort and block pain, and cause euphoria) influence your brain the same way drugs like nicotine do, but naturally in your body and without the bad side effects.
New Workouts Have an Even Greater Effect
If your body recognizes exercise as stress, it must feel extra pressed when you take on something brand new (like, yep, Aqua Zumba). The infographic from LeisureJobs confirms that the effects exercise has on your body are greater in the beginning. If you're new to running, for example, you'll feel a much bigger high from endorphins and BDNF than someone who has been running for years.
Over time, in order to feel that beginner's euphoria again, you'll have to complete more strenuous workouts. So if you're looking for ways to make your hardcore workouts better, LeisureJobs has some tips. Try using a journal, a calendar or an app to track your progress, buddying up with a friend who also wants to work out, or listening to fast tempo music. And if you're having trouble waking up early to go, try putting your gym clothes on your alarm clock as a reminder.
It doesn't take much: According to a Penn State study, just 20 minutes of exercise has health benefits like prolonging your life and reducing your risk of disease, while also making you happier—and it doesn't matter how often you exercise, because that 20 minutes was equally beneficial to all participants in the study.
If you're new to working out, start slow and keep going—not only will you feel your body get stronger, you'll also see a positive change in your mood.