What Happens To Your Brain During Exercise

Hey friends!

How’s it going?! For those who work, and had Monday off, doesn’t it feel nice to know tomorrow is already Friday again? For some reason that is real cool.

Like I said yesterday though, work is awesome. But let’s be real, weekends are awesomer (yes that’s a word), because I get to be with my stud muffin.


What Happens To Your Brain During Exercise

On Tuesday, after having a fabulous BodyPUMP teaching experience, I came home happy to fix dinner.

{Usually I grumble to myself about having to make dinner. I am no chef, people.}

It turned out to be a delicious meal for my husband, my brother, and me, and I went to bed satisfied & content.

Then, after a semi-mediocre workout the next morning (boring cardio -half awake-but made me feel better in the long run), I came upon an article that described some of the things that happen to our brains during exercise.

What happens to our brains during exercise (Article)


This article simply describes the process:

If you start exercising, your brain recognizes this as a moment of stress. As your heart pressure increases, the brain thinks you are either fighting the enemy or fleeing from it. To protect yourself and your brain from stress, you release a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). This BDNF has a protective and also reparative element to your memory neurons and acts as a reset switch. That’s why we often feel so at ease and like things are clear after exercising.

I always get my best ideas when running or lifting. I knew there was a scientific explanation!

{If you’ve seen The First Wives’ Club, then we can all relate to Goldie Hawn & her treadmill antics. 😉 }


The article goes on to relate how even short bursts of exercise and/or being active was proven in a study to improve persons’ productivity & happiness levels.

Bottom line? Exercise, even 20 minutes, is SO much better for our brains than sitting still and/or being sedentary.

Take a look at this picture from the article:

Ummm yah. Who’s up for a 20-minute walk during lunch hour?! (more pictures of muscle scans in sedentary vs. physically active people)

We don’t all need to be stellar athletes or even shooting for crazy race goals or PRs. BUT there are true chemical processes in our brains that make us feel good, and are all catalyzed by exercise.

And who doesn’t want to feel good?!

“On exercise days, people’s mood significantly improved after exercising. Mood stayed about the same on days they didn’t, with the exception of people’s sense of calm which deteriorated.”(University of Bristol)

Like I’ve always believed, you never regret a workout. {This does not include those suffering from exercise addictions, however.}

And this is all probably why people associate sweat with feeling fabulous. (workout–>sweat—>chemicals in brain make you feel happy…..so sweat=happy!)



And that is exactly why I always feel better after my workout or teaching a class. I don’t work out because I have to. I work out because I can & because it makes me feel AWESOME.

And that’s pretty much why I went into the field I did….I want to help other people feel awesome too. :)



Thankful Thursday

  1. I am super thankful for google maps. I am a total turd when it comes to driving directions. (My husband on the other hand, is a genius with driving & directions. HOW does he do that?!)
  2. I am thankful for watermelon. I am SO going to miss that stuff once Summer is ‘officially’ over.
  3. I am real thankful for my drying rack. I hardly ever use the dryer anymore because all my fitness clothes don’t go in the dryer! Hah.

What proof do YOU have that YOUR brain gets happy when YOU exercise?? What excuses to not exercising are YOU throwing out the window this week because YOU now know this?!? :) What are YOU thankful for today??

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  1. I’m in a WAAAAY better mood when I get my morning workout in!! I think my endorphins last me all day – no joke!

  2. I wonder if they can study the brain to see how quickly the “high” goes away after a great class like the body pump I did just this morning…feeling great…drove home…entered the house to find one child eating and the other playing on his Ipod while the puppy sat next to a puddle of urine on the carpet!

    My “high” quickly changed to a “low”…and such is life.

  3. I’m loving this post! I’m somewhat of a science nerd and I love reading about the hormonal responses and brain chemicals related to exercise. So fascinating! It’s so true, after a workout, it’s like suddenly whatever was bothering you before seems like no big deal, and you’re ready to just take on the rest of the day!

  4. I always get great ideas after a run too! Exercise definitely makes me happy, I know there’s brain activity and endorphins involved, but really I just feel confident because I’ve pushed my body.

  5. Very interesting! I love it!

    Today I am thankful that tomorrow is Friday! The week flew by with having Monday off! I love it!

  6. I have always joked that exercising was my Prozac – I even tweeted about it this morning. Now after reading your post, I see that there is scientific proof! Today I am thankful for my health. After being sick for two, and having to rely on others to care for me and my family, I am thankful that I am again 100%.

  7. i get runners high quite frequently so I can wholeheartedly agree that exercise=happy for me too!

    i’m thankful for choosing to sleep in this morning and running on my lunch break instead, haha. im also thankful for my fiance for always being able to make me feel better even when i’m feeling the worst!

  8. Exercising in the morning always puts me in a better mood! And the higher I get on my marathon mileage the more I experience the runners high, love it!

  9. Great read!
    I definitely am in a better mood when I at least get a little activity in!

  10. Great article and so true! When I get too busy at work and can’t make time for working out I become depressed, seriously!

  11. Danielle says:

    Happy Thursday, so glad we all made it! Though it was a short week it felt longer, lol. So happy tomorrow is Friday :)
    I 100000000% agree with on how exercise improves moods. I’ve felt it and needed for years and have always called it my “zen” time. I love to get into my zen and just sweat all my worries away. When I”m really low or feeling blah, I love repetive motions like running or something easy that I can get lost in. Sometimes when I’m angry or fired up, weight workouts are extra awesome. It’s all depending on my moods, and those can change! Today I feel totally hormonal so it will be very interesting to see what will help, but I know that something certainly will. I’ve got my road bike with me and plan to ride it after work, so afterwards I should be perfect. ha!
    I’m so thankful for my best friend, my awesome brother babysitting her kids so that we could go out and dance last night for a bit, and for my great job. And I’m thankful for my bike, I’m finally starting to almost almost almost feel like I’m loving it????? lol yeah, I still need some work but at least I don’t hate cycling anymore. I actually like it now.. ? hahaa

  12. So many great studies on the benefits of exercise and preventing Alzheimer’s!

  13. Dude I know I am happeier when I workout but seeing those brain scans was crazy!

  14. This is one of our favorite topics. We’ve done lots of posts on this topic and love your info. As a matter of fact, we just heard Dr. John Ratey speak on this very topic. He wrote “Spark.” If you haven’t read it yet, you’ll love it. Thanks for the info. We love teaching too, and mostly I like cooking.

  15. You are ALWAYS so full of interesting and informative topics. This one is no different! I love the high I get from exercising. Much better than the high I used to get from smoking weed.

  16. HOW interesting! Thanks for sharing!

    I notice I laugh a LOT more during the says I’ve exercised.

  17. Woah, that’s too cool! I definitely notice that I’m in a better mood after I exercise. I always thought it was because I knew deep down that I could get away with eating more froyo! 😀

  18. Belinda says:

    Yes!! While health is a big motivator behind my exercise, I must admit that the happiness that follows is a huge motivator too and it is something I always look forward to. I can be in the worst mood and exercise will turn it all around!!

  19. wow this is awesome! I’d much rather go for a 20 minute walk to see my brain look like that 😛 thank you for the info!

  20. hell yes, working out always puts in the better mood – satisfaction of having accomplished something great and progressing. Even when I don’t progress I feel great. I love those endorphins.

  21. I love that! I’ve known for ages that exercise really makes me happy- so much so that I even did it sometimes to avoid the tough things. Thanks for giving me the facts to see why! I had a case of ‘I don’t want to teach and I;m to sore’ last night. But after that class- I was ready to go again!

  22. Leslie says:

    Where did you find your drying rack? That would solve my Saturday morning laundry problems with running out of room to find places to hang my workout clothes. Lol!! Glad you mentioned this.. I’ve never thought of a rack, I’ve been using my kitchen table chairs.

    • My husband bought it for me for a Valentine’s present 😉 I think he bought it from ShopKo (similar to a Walmart type store). It has been an amazing gift that keeps on giving!


  1. […] This BDNF has a protective and also reparative element to your memory neurons and acts as a reset switch. That is why we often feel so at ease and like things are clear after […]



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