Your body releases certain types of hormones based the how hard you’re training.
Low-intensity workouts stimulate your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and lead to cortisol production, which boosts working memory and prefrontal cortex function. Intense exercise, on the other hand, activates the affective and reward networks (an emotional center in the brain), though researchers aren't sure exactly why.
Adds Joyce Gomes-Osman, Ph.D., director of the Neuromotor Plasticity Laboratory at the University of Miami: The effects may be most noticeable in people who exercise regularly, since their hearts pump blood more efficiently and thereby circulate hormones more quickly.
The bottom line:
You can adapt your fitness routine based on the mental boost you need that day, Gomes-Osman says. Light-to-moderate workouts like yoga and steady-state cycling can prime you for meetings and deadlines; HIIT can make you more emotionally available, helping you build personal connections.
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