By Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN
You’re sitting at your desk at work and your boss throws another pile of papers in front of you to complete by 5pm. Believe me, we’ve all been there. Your heart begins to race, thanks to the fight-or-flight hormone adrenaline, and your palms begin to sweat because those important plans you made tonight might need to be canceled. At this point your cortisol levels are rising and your blood sugar is beginning to go up as well.
You feel flustered, stressed and in a bad mood. Then you’re faced with this decision: Do you spend your lunch break eating a meal you think will comfort you or go to the gym for 20 minutes to blow off some steam? You think food obviously because wouldn’t a 20-minute workout be pointless?
Nope! It’s not pointless. Get your butt to the gym! There is a huge benefit to a 20-minute workout. In fact, researchers found that 20 minutes of working out can help to promote better mood for up to 12 hours after you’ve finished exercising.
So if you’re still contemplating, here are 5 reasons why 20 minutes of exercise can make you seriously happy.
The unfortunate reality of working today is that we sit most of the time, which can make us feel tired and sluggish. Even 20 minutes of exercise can get us up and get our blood flowing, which helps to promote energy and mental clarity (a.k.a you get your work done faster and more efficiently).
Some stress is good, but too much isn’t good for us. When we have ongoing stress (and/or not enough sleep), our bodies release cortisol – a stress hormone that can cause blood sugar to be elevated, disrupt work productivity, disrupt sleep and much more. In short, less cortisol is a good thing for happiness and productivity.
Chemicals like serotonin and dopamine are released when you break a sweat and those can trigger happiness.
In addition to serotonin and dopamine released with exercise, a chemical called neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is also released. BDNF can also help to protect the brain from emotional disorders and depression caused by stress long-term.
Finally, even though it’s only 20 minutes of exercise, the brain produces a hormone called gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA to be released. GABA is a key neurohormone that helps to promote relaxation and also prompts serotonin (again, that feel good hormone) to be released as well.
If you’re looking for ways to get moving in a short period of time, here’s a few workouts for you to try:
After your quick workout, you’re going to be craving a healthy lunch and will be energized to complete your project.