The Other Benefits of Exercise (not fat loss)
I have a fairly-new client who always talks about how great it feels to exercise. I’ve heard this before (and of course felt it) but this ENTIRE SESSION was spent me listening to him go on and on about how amazing he feels. I couldn’t get a word in!
At the end I quickly gave him some new homework, but he had already got what he needed out of me — someone to say, “I know, I’ve felt that, keep doing what you’re doing.”
Because in his world, no one is supporting him. Instead they are saying, “Work more hours and make us more money, NOW!” I’m referring to his job, not his family.
This guy is an investment banker with a wife and small child. This guy is seriously time-compressed.
He told me that when it’s 4am and his email is already ringing, his anxiety kicks in. The last thing logically to do is take a 45 minute work break, delaying the urgent business. But he knows from past experience, the right thing to do is exercise. Because afterwards, work just doesn’t seem to bother him AND he gets more done overall.
He says, “You should promote this more. I’m positive that people don’t realize how great it feels to exercise.”
He’s right. I’ve never specifically promoted how good it feels to exercise.
Let me tell you about my experiences and then show you some research.
During and after hard cardio I look (and feel) like this.
Yeah, that’s me on the left 😀
For about six hours after, I feel like this:
…Like I could take on the world, cook 100 meals, clean my apartment, coach 1000 clients, and then run into a burning building and save the day!
Joking aside, I feel utterly optimistic, I’m highly productive, I address difficult or arduous tasks more-easily, I’m more positive… I’m my best self.
Is this Runner’s High? Yes. Is that a real thing? Yes. How?
From the journal, Cerebral Cortex, 2008, they mapped athletes’ brains using positronic something-something and fluoro-something tomography….
“The level of euphoria was significantly increased after running and was inversely correlated with opioid binding in prefrontal/orbitofrontal cortices, the anterior cingulate cortex, bilateral insula, parainsular cortex, and temporoparietal regions. These findings support the “opioid theory” of the runner’s high and suggest region-specific effects in frontolimbic brain areas that are involved in the processing of affective states and mood.
BOOM! Natural opiates! Our brain makes drugs and we feel high. Wow!
Study is here
(Actually our brain always has those “drugs” (neurotransmitters) but we can’t always access them. Cocaine does the same thing – increases the concentration of feel-good neurotransmitters. It has negative side effects, exercise, done properly, does not. )
Here’s an interesting bit. You don’t have to train maximally to feel better. Here’s a study where women walked on treadmills for 20 minutes and felt better.
How they felt about the exercise also changed how they responded (how they felt after the exercise) (and it explained the different physical results they experienced):
- Perceptions of ability (I suck at this, this sucks – I feel this way when I don’t know what I’m doing)
- Interpretation of exercise intensity (This ain’t so bad! I feel good!)
- Exercise outcomes (I walked today – good for me!)
- Focus of concentration
- And perceptions of control (No one tells me what to do. This was my idea! YA!)
So to repeat – how they FELT ABOUT THE EXERCISE CHANGED HOW THEIR BODY RESPONDED.
This is why there is such a thing as personal training. This is why I let clients design part or all of their (training and nutrition) programs. This is why some people love crossfit, and some people hate it. Both are correct.
This is why you, without me, need to follow your heart and do fun stuff. If you like Zumba, do it. It might not be as effective as resistance training at high intensity (actually guaranteed it isn’t), but it’s better than nothing. A LOT BETTER.
And you WILL feel AWESOME after, if you love it and got a sweat going. That’s a promise.
Exercise doesn’t have to be about getting ripped, it can be about feeling great.
“I don’t’ care that I’ve lost two inches off my stomach,” says my investment banker. “Exercise is a habit for life because it feels amazing and makes my life so much easier.”