Everyone loves the post-workout feeling. Tingling muscles combined with a great sense of achievement make the moments after exercising part of the reason people love going to the gym.
But why do you feel this way? Running for miles, or lifting heavy weights puts a strain on your body, so how come this makes you feel good?
Throughout exercising, your body goes through several stages.
As you begin, your body bursts into action. There’s an increase in heart rate as your blood is quickly pumped around your body to deliver some oxygens to your muscles. Your respiratory system also increases as your body asks for more oxygen, making you breathe a lot quicker.
The bright red face and sweaty brow are all symptoms of your body trying to get back what is called a constant internal environment. In other words, your body wants to feel normal, but as you’re hurtling down a running track or trying to squeeze one last pull-up out, your body is in a far from normal position.
So, what is your brain doing while all this is going on?
Well, your brain sets the whole thing in motion. As soon as you start working out your brain realises your body is under stress and places you in fight or flight mode. Your reactions are sharper, your pain threshold higher, and you’re more awake.
Try to lift your personal best immediately and you may not be able to. Try it after you’ve already been working out for a bit, and you might have a chance. This is one of many reasons that warming up is essential.
Just like all of your other muscles, the brain needs oxygen. As your body is working hard and the oxygen is being carried through your blood at high speed, the brain certainly feels the benefit. But it isn’t just what’s going into the brain that affects your mindset, it’s also what the brain is releasing.
The Runners High
So-called for the buzz people feel after completing a run, there is some science behind the short-term ‘running high’. As you work out, whether it be cardio or muscular, your brain doesn’t want you to feel in pain.
Endorphins are a type of neurotransmitter that the brain releases during a workout in a bid to ease the stress you are feeling at that moment. This refers back to the constant internal environment mentioned earlier.
When you stop working out, the endorphins still have the same effect, only this time, your body isn’t in the situation of working out.
This can lead to a feeling of joy and calm, and this feeling is what is referred to as ‘the runners high’. Especially in cardio, this contributes greatly to the post-workout high and is a great reason why exercise can be a key contributor to positive mental health.
A lot happens to the muscles during exercise. As they are being worked, they cry out for more nutrients and oxygen. The body responds, providing your muscles with everything they need, whilst also removing waste from them. Oxygen and glucose are the main things muscles need to maintain a high level of intensity during a workout.
To keep providing your muscles with what they need, the body must work hard. The brain produces adrenaline to ensure your body is at maximum capacity. This limits the feeling of pain and helps keep you alert.
But what about muscle soreness?
We’ve all been there. After a big run, it can be painful walking up the stairs, or after a tough upper body session with a personal trainer, it can be tough to lift your arms above your head to hang the washing out.
Don’t worry. Sore muscles don’t have to be looked upon as a bad thing. Instead, it can be a positive sign. Muscles are under a lot of stress during a workout, and this causes the fibres inside them to break down.
When you feel this pain, it is often a sign not that you’re getting weaker, but that you’re actually getting stronger. The way muscles grow is by rebuilding the broken fibres, so this pain is just a sign that you’re making progress, hence why you feel it more as you raise your intensity levels.
Many people who join the gym or use a personal trainer want to lose weight. One short-term effect of exercise that helps this is an increase in your metabolism. As you are working out, the body needs energy, and it gets that from your body.
Whether it’s the food you’ve eaten, or the fat you’re storing, an increase in metabolism means more calories are being burned, which is always a good thing when it comes to losing weight.
The body is a wonderful thing, and throughout a workout, it is constantly pushing to protect your muscles and keep you going. There are loads of long-term effects to exercise, which include weight loss, muscle growth, and a positive mental outlook.
When the body is working out, it is put in a stressful situation. To combat this, it jumps into action, providing muscles with the fuel to keep you exercising.
The short-term effects of a workout are vast. From a great feeling of achievement that is aided by the neurotransmitters that the brain has released during exercise, to the increase in metabolism and calorie burning that takes place, it’s always a great feeling when you have accomplished your goals and recorded a great session.