The High Point

Women's Health (South Africa) - - HEALTH -

As your mus­cles grow weary, the temp­ta­tion to pull the plug grows stronger. But if you keep go­ing – for a to­tal of 20 min­utes or more – your natural opi­oid sys­tem kicks into high gear, flood­ing your brain with painkilling chem­i­cals like en­dor­phins. (Ac­cord­ing to one study, these en­dor­phins at­tach to the same brain re­gions that light up when you’re sex­u­ally aroused!) Other re­searchers credit a chem­i­cal called cannabi­noids for the high (yep, it’s from the same fam­ily of chem­i­cals that gives mar­i­juana smok­ers their buzz). It could be that the body re­leases these sub­stances to cope with the stress of ex­er­cise, says lead re­searcher Dr Arne Di­et­rich, a cog­ni­tive neu­ro­sci­en­tist. “If you give your body time to re­lease these chem­i­cals, you may feel much bet­ter dur­ing and af­ter ex­er­cise,” he says. And not just phys­i­cally: a study pub­lished in the Bri­tish Jour­nal of Sports Medicine re­ported that ex­er­cis­ers scored sig­nif­i­cant

men­tal-health perks af­ter just 20 min­utes. Thank­fully, your brain does have a safety brake. It con­stantly me­ters out your ef­forts based on your train­ing, pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence, the du­ra­tion ahead and in­for­ma­tion it’s gath­er­ing from your heart and mus­cles. It’s what sports sci­en­tist, Dr Tim Noakes calls the “cen­tral gover­nor” the­ory of fa­tigue. If your brain doesn’t like what it’s feel­ing, it sig­nals that you’re fa­tigued. In fact, re­search shows that even when en­durance ath­letes quit from seem­ingly in­sur­mount­able fa­tigue, they still have glyco­gen (fuel) in their mus­cle stores and un­tapped mus­cle fi­bres at their dis­posal. Their brain has just told them it’s time to stop. POWER UP: Make high-in­ten­sity in­ter­vals – say, al­ter­nat­ing one­minute all-out ef­fort and one­minute re­cov­ery – a part of your weekly rou­tine. “They teach your cen­tral gover­nor that go­ing harder won’t do you any harm,” says Noakes. For work­outs longer than 90 min­utes, make sure you have at least 30g to 60g of glu­cose an hour (such as fruit or sports drinks) and get plenty of flu­ids so you don’t feel fuzzy headed by the time you fin­ish.

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