Back in my running days (AKA over exercising days), I was pretty addicted to my runners high. I felt like I was just gliding along on a cloud and I felt unstoppable. I could do anything and everything. (I was also really hurting my body but that is a whole other Oprah). Since recovery, I am happy to say that I am still able to get this euphoric feeling after exercising without killing myself. I created Asteya Fitness in hopes of directing the purpose of fitness toward finding and enjoying this awesome feeling because most all decisions we make are based on emotion. So if we FEEL good after we move chances be we will to stick to the program.
So with that in mind, I had to share the one and only “before and after” photo you will ever see on my website, facebook, ect. Here it is
Yes- it’s about to get a bit science-y so hang in there. The picture you see above is of 2 brain scans: one before exercise and one after exercise. This picture already says a lot on it’s own and it was what I discovered I when Googled “brain before and after exercise” but I still wanted to know what really happens in my brain when I exercise and why it was so addicting. Why do we get that “feel good” feeling and how much exercise does it really take to get this feeling?
In my online search I also came across an article on the Fast Company website and had to share the info with you. So basically when you start exercising and your heart rate increases, your body thinks that it is under stress and releases a protein called Brain-Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF). This protein acts to repair and protect memory neurons which is why you can get that clear headed and dare I say it, happy feeling after exercise. Endorphins are also released during exercise to combat the physical stress and these not only block pain receptors, they also minimize the discomfort of exercise and give a sense of euphoria. Now who doesn’t want that? In my case, this also explains why exercise can be addicting.
So then the question is how long does the average person have to exercise (increase their heart rate) until they are able to enjoy this state of bliss?
Most everywhere I looked online for exercise amount guidelines I was given the amount of time and intensity of exercise for physical health benefits with no attention to the amount of time needed to “feel good” or the mental health benefits. Up until recently I thought it must be about an hour since that is generally the amount of time I spend on my workout and is the time that most workout classes last. According to the article in Fast Company that number is incorrect. The magical amount of time is only 20 minutes! To be honest, I was really surprised but more so I happy. I was happy for all of you because knowing that it just takes a mere 20 minutes to get your happy on seems way more doable than the 45 minute or hour long sweat session, right?
Another great tidbit of information from this article was that this exercised-induced euphoric state is the most intense or highest for those that have not exercised before or have not exercised in a long time. So if you or someone you know has yet to begin or begin again, start with 20 minutes and forget the hour-long workout.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” – Lao Tzu
Or in this case the workout of happiness starts with 20 minutes.