If I hear one more thing about the mood-lifting effects of workout, I may only hurl a free weight through a window. Running out never gives me that feel-good chemical thrum. Do some people only not have endorphins? I decided to stop mopily, anxiously wondering why workout doesn’t build me less mopey and anxious, and consult the experts instead.
“Don’t ever say endorphins in my presence, ” snorts Rodney Dishman, prof of workout science at the University of Georgia. “You can’t reduce the complex human brain to a handful of biochemicals. I feel better after exerting, but I’ve never felt euphoria . That’s something you get with medications or sex.”
OK…what about the studies that call a workout nature’s antidepressant? Dishman says yes, animal examines have shown that the brain has similar responses to both exercise and drugs. Survey on humans are more complicated, though. Our sadness might be lifted by moving, sure. It might also be eased by being in sunlight. Or by connecting with other people. “And you can’t rule out the placebo consequence, ” Dishman says. “If I’d already tried three kinds of drugs, I’d be desperate to insures an improvement.”
Some people only have a negative visceral reaction to the idea of exercise, says Panteleimon Ekkekakis, an associate professor of workout psychology at Iowa State University. In his research, Ekkekakis has found that almost everyone responds positively to moderate activity. But when topics reach a certain phase of exertion, some feel just fine while others exhibit what’s called a degenerating affect.( I call it spirit-crushing hopelessnes .) “Part of that could be inherent, like genetics, ” Ekkekakis says, “and part could be acquired through experiences.” Like, for instance, the humiliations I suffered as a fat kid fighting through the annual Presidential Physical Fitness Test.
Huffing and puffing will be less miserable if I maintain my eyes on the award, says Emily Balcetis, an associate professor of psychology at New York University who has examined motivation, perception and workout: “Swap the low-level thinks like I dislike sweating for high-level thinks like I’m improving my cardiovascular health . “
I recall the night my entire office went to a SoulCycle class. Once we started pedaling, my fat-kid angst fell away as I focused on the highest-level goal of all: not succumbing. At the end, I was exhilarated to still be exhaling. I felt, literally, happy to be alive. Is that the workout boost people are talking about? I acknowledge I’d like to feel that way again.
Last week a coworker told me I should come to her rowing class( that’s a thing now ). My first impulse was to devise an excuse — something serious and long-term, like an impending kidney gift. But when I thought of that SoulCycle class, I actually told I might join her. A small victory that left me feeling virtually, well, euphoric.
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