As far as endorphins and exercise go, running tends to hog the warm, sunny spotlight. But even though putting in miles gets a lot of good press, it’s not the only form of fitness that comes with a high-inducing happiness boost. Team sports and workouts can also elevate your mood thanks to their combination of being active plus socializing, and a new study points to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) as another sweaty way to do the same.
It was commissioned by Freeletics, the most-popular fitness app in Europe, which uses Artificial Intelligence to gives its 35-million users customized workouts and nutrition plans. It pinpointed how HIIT affects BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a protein used for brain-cell repair and survival, cognitive functions, and especially mood regulation. Researchers found that HIIT workouts actually cause BDNF levels to rise, which can lead to a happiness boost.
If you’re chronically sad or depressed, seek medical attention from a doctor or therapist and discuss whether or not exercise would be a possible form of treatment for you. For example, the above study’s findings suggest that a 30-minute HIIT session (or 60 minutes of intense interval training) 3–5 times a week could be effective in addressing such mood disorders. And if you’re just having a bad day, you could feel better after simply one workout. With all this intel in mind, Freeletics crafted a HIIT workout exclusively for Well+Good.
The key with any HIIT workout is 100-percent effort through short bursts of exercise, followed by short recovery periods—you want that heart rate up.
The all-star trainer who created this no-equipment, do-anywhere sequence is Vanessa Gebhardt, Freeletic’s first employee and a world champion Spartan racer. “I started as an intern and wanted to motivate more women to work out with their own body weight,” she shares. “So I started a bootcamp for girls only, training with them four times a week and showing them that push-ups and pull-ups are not just for men. Now, I’ve been working at Freeletics for five years.”
The key with any HIIT workout is 100-percent effort through short bursts of exercise, followed by short recovery periods—you want that heart rate up. Ready to try Gebhardt’s happiness HIIT workout? Scroll down to read how it’s done and watch videos of W+G editorial intern Gabrielle Kassel demoing each move.
Crossack squats (20 per side)
Stand with your feet wider than your shoulders and legs straight. Sit back into a lateral squat by shifting your weight to one side and bending that knee, while keeping the other leg straight. Extend your arms out in front of you, not touching the body, to counterbalance sticking your butt out. Raise back to the start position.
Split lunge (20 per side)
Stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Step forward with one leg, keeping your core engaged. Lower your hips, bending both knees at 90 degrees. Then, jump up and scissor switch your legs, landing in the same 90-degree lunge position—but with the opposite leg in front. Your feet should leave the ground at the same time—this will keep your heart rate up!
Side plank (30 seconds per side)
Lie down on your side, and prop yourself up on your forearm, keeping your arm bent at 90-degrees and elbo under your shoulder. Your feet should be stacked on top of each other, and your shoulders, hips, and knees should be aligned. Extend your left arm fully overhead. Hold for 30 seconds and then switch sides.
Reverse lunges (20 per side)
Start with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping the core engaged the whole time, step back with one foot, landing on the ball of your foot, heel raised. Bend both knees to 90 degrees. Push through your heel to return to standing.
Squat jumps (20)
Stand with your feet a little less than shoulder-width apart. Lower into a squat position, bending at the knees. Your spine should still be straight and your shoulders and hips should be aligned. Try to lower down until your quads are parallel to the ground. Then, jump straight up, swinging your arm above your head. Return to a squat and repeat.
Plank leg lifts (40 per leg)
Start in a forearm plank position, with your elbows below your shoulders and your hips, knees, and shoulders aligned. Raise one foot off the ground. Hold for two seconds and then bring back down and repeat 40 times. Then, do the same with the other leg.
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