How just one workout can better your brain and body

It doesn’t take long to feel the positive effects of exercise, new research has revealed, showing that doing just one workout has a huge impact on your brain, improving function, enhancing mood and decreasing stress.

The meta-analysis published in Brain Plasticity, researchers summarised an impressively large and growing body of work examining the three main changes that occur after exercise: cognitive and behavioural, neurophysiological and neurochemical.

They found three consistent observations in the studies:

  1. In terms of behavioural and cognitive changes, a single bout of exercise improved executive function (getting things done), enhanced mood and decreased stress levels.
  2. Large areas of the brain and brain systems are activated after exercise in response to neurophysiological and neurochemical changes.
  3. One of the biggest questions in these studies is the relationship between chemical changes shown in rodents and behavioural changes shown in humans — basically, why do the chemicals released during exercise make our brains do what they do.

And the changes don’t stop after just one workout — if the impact of exercising is so profound, imagine what a training schedule can do for your mind and body.

“The studies presented in this review clearly demonstrate that acute exercise has profound effects on brain chemistry and physiology,” explain co-author Julia C Basso, PhD, post-doctoral research fellow, Center for Neural Science at New York University.

So if you were thinking about ditching that gym session today, think again.