Being fit and healthy can help you increase the amount of endorphins in your body. But why would you want to do this? Why is having a good flow of endorphins healthy? Read on and we’ll tell you!
What’s the big deal about endorphins?
Before we get into how fitness can help you increase your endorphin levels, let’s answer the question: “What are endorphins?”
Simply put, ‘endorphins’ are feel-good hormones. Endorphins are the chemicals in your body that make you feel happy and excited. Think about when you first fall in love. Those ‘warm-and-fuzzy’ feelings that you feel when you think about the object of your affection or when you know that you’re going to see them? These feelings are produced by endorphins.
People who suffer from anxiety and depression often go onto medication that help to keep the endorphins in their bloodstreams for a longer period of time. This is so that the negative feelings that this disease brings about can be cancelled by the endorphins.
Exercise increases endorphins
When we exercise, our bodies release endorphins. These interact with the receptors in our brain that reduce our perception of pain. They also act as sedatives which is why we sleep better after we’ve exercised.
In addition, endorphins trigger a ‘feel-good response’ in our bodies. The effect of this is similar to morphine. This is seen when runners experience a ‘runner’s high’ directly after they’ve exercised.
How does this help?
The stress-busting properties of exercising are legendary. And you can see this by the many people who retreat to the gym for a workout after a stressful day at work.
Besides the endorphins that exercise is responsible for triggering the release of, performing exercises helps to free your mind from the worries and stresses of the day allows you to bring your focus towards yourself. It does this by forcing you to concentrate on the movements that you need to do in your exercises.
This has the result that when you come out of the gym, you’ve almost forgotten what you were stressing about. This gives you the clarity of mind to be able to focus on things that really matter. This is incredibly powerful for people suffering from depression and anxiety because getting rid of the negative thoughts allows them to create the headspace that they so vitally need in order to get better.
What exercises are the best for endorphin-release?
It’s been found that intense aerobic and cardiovascular exercise – such as running on the treadmill or taking part in a spinning class - are among the top forms of exercise and fitness to get the maximum amount of endorphins released in the body.
Speaking about reducing stress and anxiety as well as improving your mood, don’t discount Yoga and Pilates. In these types of exercises, breathing forms a significant part of the class and actually helps you to perform the exercises. In Pilates and Yoga, breathing is performed differently:
- In Pilates, you will breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. While you exhale through your mouth it is open.
- In Yoga, you still breathe in through your nose but you exhale through your nose as well. During the exhalation process, you slightly constrict the back of your throat.
In Pilates, the Pelvic Lift is an exercise that must always be used as a warm-up exercise when embarking on a Pilates programme. It has benefits such as spine mobilisation, abdominal awareness and it also centres your mind for the exercises that follow. It also places emphasis on your hamstrings and abdominal control:
- Begin by lying supine on the mat. Your arms must be lying relaxed at the sides of your body with your palms facing down. Bend your legs and face your feet forwards.
- Inhale to prepare.
- As you exhale, pull into your abdominal muscles and slowly lift your torso off the mat. Feel each vertebra lift off one by one. Engage your hamstrings as you lift up eventually. Squeeze your glutes as you reach the pinnacle of the exercise.
- Inhale and hold.
- Exhale and pull into the abdominal muscles. Slowly lower your torso and feel each vertebra articulate onto the mat. Start from the upper/thoracic spine down to the lower/lumbar vertebrae.
Being fitness and healthy helps to increase the amount of endorphins released in your body. This has a myriad of benefits for you both in your work and social life. So what are you waiting for? Get moving!