Feel the burn and feel better

Strenuous exercise may be unpleasant at the time but once you have recovered it leads to improvements in mood compared to less strenuous exercise.

These are the findings of research conducted by Lindsay Smith and Dr Nickolas Smith from the Department of Exercise and Sport Science, Manchester Metropolitan University - presented at the British Psychological Society's Annual Conference in Glasgow.

The research compared a group of 11 sedentary people who exercised at a moderate intensity (i.e. aerobic exercise) and a more strenuous exercise intensity (i.e. above the lactate threshold, indicating anaerobic exercise). The study also involved a control condition during which participants did no exercise.

Measures of mood were taken before, during, immediately following and 20 minutes after exercise. During and immediately following strenuous exercise participants experienced more negative mood compared to the other conditions.

However, after a 20 minute recovery period, their moods were considerably improved compared to before exercise. Those who were in the no-exercise groups and moderate intensity exercise group showed no such improvements.

Dr Smith said: "These results have implications for the recommended intensity of exercise required to produce the 'feel good factor' often experienced following exercise. There are also implications regarding how people new to regular exercise should expect to feel during the exercise itself if they are to experience post-exercise mood benefits."