Hello friends, and welcome to this month’s Joyinmovement newsletter,
There are days you absolutely don’t feel like exercising but you do, right? Have you ever wondered, even with such a resistant mindset, why you feel much better after working out?
We know that there’s a relationship between exercise and your brain. But just what is it that creates such a dramatic improvement in mood, mental health and even memory following a workout? It’s your brain biochemistry.
Without getting too deep into the science of brain chemistry, let’s just talk about the two neurotransmitters that are responsible for your feeling so good after exercise. The human brain is made up of billions of cells called neurons. These neurons transmit chemical signals between each other and allow you to interpret the world, both inside and outside. These chemical signals, called neurotransmitters, are responsible for how you feel, how you think, and how you behave. Two types of neurotransmitters in particular, endorphins and serotonin, are responsible for why you feel so good when you exercise.
If you participate in any endurance activity your brain releases endorphins, the neurotransmitters responsible for what some call the “runner’s high.” It’s that feel-good sensation you get after aerobic exercise. But why do endorphins leave us feeling so good and calm post exercise? Endorphins are the body’s internal painkiller. So instead of feeling pain, endorphins leave you feeling pleasure.
Serotonin is a mood-boosting neurotransmitter and is known as the “happy chemical” because it too makes us feel good. But unlike endorphins, which initially block pain to produce pleasure, serotonin promotes pleasure itself. Research has shown that a lack of brain serotonin in some individuals has been associated with depression. Physical activity can increase brain serotonin levels. It’s not just endurance exercise, though. Strength training, which includes anything from body-weight exercises and resistance-band workouts to machines and free-weight exercises has also been shown to improve your moods and leave you feeling good.
While high levels of exercise-induced serotonin and endorphins have long been associated with better mood, another brain compound, a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), also promotes cognitive health in areas such as memory and learning. BDNF’s main role is to promote the survival and growth of neurons and to ensure the proper transmission of chemical messages between brain cells. If neurons die, chemical signals are interrupted and cognitive functioning declines. The presence of BDNF strengthens neurons, ensuring their survivability, which means message signaling continues to hum along nicely, sustaining positive mood, intact memory and better learning. It’s no surprise that the best way to trigger production of BDNF protein is EXERCISE.
Understanding how your brain works on exercise is more than just a nice set of facts. Knowing exactly why exercise helps improve your mood and memory can be powerfully motivating to get you moving on those days when you would prefer to ditch your exercise plans.
So as we head into the busyness of the holiday season, this month’s short but to the point newsletter is meant to remind you that there really is a scientific reason why exercise is great for you. So don’t bail on your movement and exercise routines!
Keep moving and stay healthy!
P.S. Here’s a reminder that on Joyinmovement I’ve got a page dedicated to articles I’ve written on running, mobility and Z-Health, and training. If you’ve never read them, please do. They’re chock full of great information!
P.P.S. Have you been keeping up with your Scottish Showers? Let me know. I have, and they feel great!