Do you feel lethargic, tired and sleepy? Need more energy to tackle your to-do list? Forget the alarm clock or the few extra cups of coffee and head to the gym to work up a sweat.

Exercising has two benefits for your energy level. Exercise improves your body’s fitness and your mood, which contributes to your overall health and well-being.

The physical benefits of exercise that boost energy

Exercise changes the body physically in ways that help you feel energized, including:

Increases endorphin levels

Endorphins are brain neurochemicals, or hormones, that are produced and stored in the hypothalamus and pituitary gland of the brain. Your body releases them when you exercise, especially when you engage in moderate-intensity activity like aerobics, moderate-intensity exercise, and weight lifting. Research has shown that endorphins increase one hour after exercise. And that release of endorphins after exercise helps relieve pain, reduce stress, and boost your overall sense of well-being. This is called “runner’s high”.

Exercise boosts heart health

Exercise builds cardiovascular health, allowing you to have greater endurance throughout the day. For overall cardiovascular health, the recommendations are at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (such as brisk walking, water aerobics, and tennis) per week.

Improve sleep

Yes, regular exercise can help you sleep better and therefore feel fresher and refreshed throughout the day. A study published in the Journal of Sleep Research looked at people with insomnia who engaged in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity spread over a week. The researchers found that this amount of physical activity was associated not only with a significant reduction in the severity of insomnia symptoms, but also with improved mood.

Better concentration

Mentally, we feel more energized and ready to take on the world after a good workout because endorphins have boosted our physical energy levels. According to a study of healthy people aged 65 and older, published in the September 2021 journal Clinical Practice & Epidemiology in Mental Health, three sessions per week of moderate physical activity for 12 weeks improved cognitive performance, especially memory.

Another study in older adults published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity showed that 24 weeks of moderate aerobic exercise improved cognitive function, including concentration. Although some researchers have speculated that higher intensity training sessions may not have the same positive effect, a study published in Perceptual and Motor Skills showed that a high intensity training session improved cognitive function with respect to attention and short-term memory tasks.

The mood-boosting psychological and mental health benefits of exercise

When you are more energetic, your mood improves. But there are a few other mechanisms by which moving your body through exercise can also have beneficial effects on psychological and mental health.

Exercise often improves long-term alertness and cognitive function, which can improve mood.

Sweating also helps reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, which shifts mood in a more positive direction. Exercise causes the release of dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters that play a role in maintaining mood. It also slows the release of cortisol, the hormone that circulates when we are under chronic stress. These hormonal changes benefit our brain cells and promote improved cognitive function and mood.

A large body of research has consistently shown that regular exercise is associated with a lower incidence of depression. According to a study published in the journal Neuropsychobiology, exercise is associated with the release of neurotransmitters and proteins called neurotrophic factors, which prompt nerves to make new connections, which may improve brain function and play a role in reducing depressive symptoms.

Additionally, going to the park, the gym, or taking a group workout class allows you to get out of your home and interact with other people, which can alleviate isolation. Loneliness is not to be underestimated; feeling socially isolated can have many negative effects on our health and well-being. A February 2020 review of studies published in National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine noted that social isolation has been associated with an increased risk of early mortality, dementia, incident coronary heart disease, and stroke.

Which workouts give the most energy?

Any exercise or physical activity that speeds up the heart rate, gets the blood flowing, and releases endorphins will boost your energy levels. Good cardiovascular exercises will strengthen your heart and give you more endurance.

Any type of aerobic activity can boost your mood and energy. The exercise you are participating in should ideally increase your heart rate significantly for a period of at least 30 minutes. Doing this three to four times a week has a mild antidepressant effect. Studies confirm the benefits of exercise on depression. Aerobic exercise, according to a review of studies published in the January 2019 issue of Depression and Anxiety, has been shown to be an effective antidepressant intervention in adult patients (ages 18-65) with a clinical diagnosis of depression major.

But lower-intensity exercise, such as yoga, has also shown potential benefits when it comes to mood. Research suggests that yoga can help reduce depression and anxiety. A review of studies published in October 2019 in the Journal of Yoga, Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation confirmed that yoga can be a strong complementary approach to drug therapy and psychotherapy treatment. Physical activity, even if not strenuous routine exercise, was associated with lower levels of depression in a review published in Frontiers in Psychology.

And a study published in September 2018 in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry, which analyzed data collected from 1.2 million adults aged 18 and over in 2011, 2013 and 2015, found that people who reported exercise also reported fewer days of poor mental health in the month prior to the survey, and that all types of exercise (including running, cycling, walking, exercise in the gym, winter sports and others) were linked to lower mental health burden overall.

Conclusion: It all depends on you and what you like to do. When trying to add exercise to your routine to improve your mental health, it’s best to start with an activity you enjoy. That’s what you’re most likely to do.

Choose an activity that sounds fun and that you want to do

Play basketball, football or tennis. Jog or walk with a friend, or take a bike ride. Take some time for yourself and listen to music or watch your favorite TV show while you knock off the miles on the elliptical trainer or stair climber in the gym. Take a hike, or take your kids to the park and play with them. You can also try an aerobics class, a karate or other martial arts class, or any other aerobic fitness class offered by a local gym.

The key is to find what appeals to you, stick to it, and reap the rewards of a consistent workout routine. And if you’re having trouble getting used to it or if you don’t know what to do, discover group lessons, work with a trainer and check out the community’s leisure offers.

* criptom strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the opinion of a health professional.