A hard workout can make you hurt in the moment and question why you’ve pushed yourself so hard. When you’ve finished your workout, however, you’re likely to experience a rush of positive feelings that leave you in an almost euphoric state. This feeling is often attributed to endorphins, which are chemicals released in the brain and eventually carried throughout the bloodstream. Endorphins are natural painkillers, so it makes sense that rigorous exercise triggers their release. Though endorphins may play some part in your post-workout bliss, they are only part of the bigger picture. Here’s a closer look at why exercise makes you feel great, which will help you better understand the benefits of all those hours you’ve logged on the treadmill.
Your brain’s response to exercise
Exercise does trigger the release of endorphins in the brain, but it also increases the release of other neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine. (Meaning you’re more than likely not just an “endorphin junkie.”) These chemicals help to regulate your mood, reduce stress, and promote happy feelings. Individuals who suffer from depression often lack adequate levels of these chemicals, so exercise can serve as a natural remedy. As chemical production increases in the brain, the nervous system sends signals to the rest of the body that promote general feelings of awesomeness while you work out and after you’ve finished.
Your body’s preparedness for stress
The reason that your brain reacts to exercise like it does is our fight or flight stress response. Our bodies are capable of great feats when we are in danger, a sensation sensed through an increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and increased muscle contraction. Unlike our ancestors, we tend to feel these changes while running on a treadmill rather than running away from predators, but the body is trained to respond the same way regardless of the specific circumstances. Therefore, you might think of exercise as good practice for responding to stressful situations in everyday life.
If you aren’t sure about where to start with an exercise program or you feel more pain than positivity after you work out, connect with MeMD to speak with a board-certified medical provider from the comfort of home, without a long wait or high copay.