Feel the burn to feel good, say scientists

Exercising so hard that you “feel the burn” in your muscles is not only good for the body but also the mind, say scientists.

Vigorous exercise helps boost mood but moderate exercise does not, they found.

Researchers drew their conclusions after studying 11 people, who were asked to take part in two 20-minute long work-outs, one moderately intensive and one highly intensive.

The mood of the participants was measured before, during, immediately after and 20 minutes after each work out.

They found volunteers exhibited no mood improvements after moderate exercise. However, 20 minutes after the end of the strenuous work-out – which got them breathing heavily and their muscles burning – the participants reported feeling more positive.

Nickolas Smith, of Manchester Metropolitan University’s department of exercise and sport science, said: “These results have implications for the recommended intensity of exercise required to produce the ‘feel good factor’ often experienced following exercise.

“There are also implications regarding how people new to regular exercise should expect to feel during the exercise itself if they are to experience post-exercise mood benefits.”

Psychiatrists believe that mood improves after vigorous exercise – a phenomenon known as the ‘runner’s high’ – because it triggers the release of endorphins. These are a type of neurotransmitter in the brain that help combat pain.

The results are being presented on Wednesday at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference in Glasgow.

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