What exactly happens when you exercise? Why does it affect our mood and the way we think? Now we all know exercise has a beneficial effect on our mental state, but have we ever stopped to think what exactly happens that makes us in a euphoric state of mind, and how much exercise do we need to achieve this. Let’s dive into the Physiology!


The main hormones release when exercising is Cortisol, Adrenaline and Endorphins as well as many other different types. What’s important to know is all these different hormones are released at different times and intensities during exercise. This is why it’s important to understand how much and what type of exercise should we be doing to see the effects in our mental state.


The two main hormones which I found quite interesting were Cortisol and Endorphins and how they interact with the brain and the body pre/post exercise. Cortisol is the body’s stress hormone, it is produced in the adrenal glands which is situated above the kidneys, now this hormone gets produced when you are IN a stressful situated “fight or flight” reactions. Cortisol has many functions as it helps the body regulate glucose, reduced inflammation and many more functions but as everything is in the human body, too much or too little of a hormone can also cause an imbalance in the body and our natural response to things. Where exercise comes in, is at the end of any physical activity the body naturally removes excess cortisol which helps regulates our “flight or fight” response, which helps stabilise our moods. Less Cortisol in our body at certain times means less stress!


The next hormone that gets produced during exercise is Endorphins, this is a hormone well known to the average individual. We know it does good to our bodies but how exactly? Endorphins are neurotransmitters produced in our bodies, you get different types of Endorphins that gets produced all responsible for different roles but the main exercise related one is the plasma B- endorphin neurotransmitter which helps diminish the perception of pain in our mind. So Endorphins gets produced when we are OUT of stressful situations, as they give us stress relieving qualities.


It’s important to note that while exercise can help regulate cortisol and promote endorphin release, individual responses may vary. Some people may be more sensitive to cortisol or may require different exercise intensities or durations to experience the desired effects on hormone balance.


For an individual to see the beneficial results of these two hormones, it will take a certain amount of time exercising during one session to maximise the effects. According to the ACSM (American Collage of Sports Medicine) the recommendations individuals need to achieve is at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity for 5 days of the week or 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity, 3 days a week. With this there needs to be a a balance between resistance training (weight training) and cardiovascular endurance (cardio).


Achieving these recommendations will help balance out the effect of the two hormones at play during exercise which is eliminating the excess Cortisol in our bodies which initiates stress and producing Endorphins which helps in diminishing the perception of pain in our bodies.


There are endless ways you can start moving your body today! Whether it be going for a brisk walk in the park in the morning or hitting up a gym class at night after a stressful day of work. Always remember it does not matter how you end up moving, it’s starting to move for the right duration of time that makes the change in our bodies and mind.


This is your call to train your brain into a better mindset today!