You know the feeling: Walking out of a workout class sweaty — but energized and smiling. Hopping off the treadmill feeling invigorated, like you could keep going for miles and miles.
“I’ve heard the saying, ‘no one ever regrets how they feel after a workout,’ and that’s so true in my experience,” says Sarah Pope, Dynamic Personal Trainer at Life Time in Westchester, N.Y. “When we’re exercising — whether it’s walking, running, stretching, or resistance training — our bodies go through a change in homeostasis. Movement patterns help increase oxygen and blood flow throughout the body and there is a release of endorphins, which are often referred to as the ‘feel-good hormone.’
“Endorphins release into the blood stream and help reduce pain, discomfort, and stress. This leaves us feeling great at the end of the workout,” Pope explains. “Completing a workout can also give you a sense of reward or accomplishment as you’re working toward your healthy-living goals.”
For those who struggle with finding the motivation to exercise, this feel-good result can be inspiring, says Pope. To make the most of the post-workout boost, she suggests working out first thing in the morning or taking a movement break in the middle of your day.
“When you work out and have those endorphins rushing first thing in the morning, you’re setting the tone for the rest of your day,” she says. “And if you can break away from your workday for a quick 10-minute walk outside, that’s going to help you feel refreshed. Life Time also has lunchtime classes for those who are able to turn their lunch hour into a workout hour.”
Although long accredited to endorphins, newer research shows that the “runner’s high,” or the sense of euphoria after a strenuous run or endurance workout, may actually be due to endocannabinoids. These naturally occurring chemicals are similar to the cannabinoids in CBD extracts and the THC in marijuana.
With receptors throughout the nervous system, endocannabinoids modulate energy and well-being; battle inflammation; relieve pain; and affect physiological functions such as sleep, appetite, memory, and movement.
During or after a workout, your body may release extra endorphins that function as a natural painkiller, but those hormones can’t reach the brain and alter your mental state, according to experts. Meanwhile, certain endocannabinoids are lipid-soluble and can cross into the brain, potentially contributing to a positive shift in your mental state.
Learn more: “The True Source of a Runner’s High?”