High Intensity Movements

For a long time when I would workout, I would spend hours at the gym doing the same boring weight lifting routines, or I’d run the treadmill for a long period of time. In the beginning, I really enjoyed it and I noticed that it made me feel strong, energetic and more happy. However, overtime, the workouts seemed to be losing it’s effects. I was not being challenged enough and I was tired of doing the same thing. It also would take me way too long to complete a workout, and I would have little to no energy to complete another workout until 3 or even 5 days later.

But then I discovered HIIT and it completely changed the way I viewed working out and unbeknownst to me, it also completely changed what was happening in my brain.

When we’re stressed our brains produce high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol and adrenaline. Anytime we have an increase of cortisol and we’re unable to regulate it, we experience anxiety. Stress and anxiety are a dreadful combination, and it’s no surprise that they’re the most talked about mental health concerns in therapy. Stress and anxiety completely change our mood, our ability to function and our aptitude to reach our goals.

As painful as the reality is of living a stressful and anxiety prone life, there is HOPE!

Exercise has been proven to reduce cortisol and adrenaline levels. This in turn reduces anxiety and increases endorphins such as dopamine (which is the hormone that supports our emotional well being and sense of happiness). When this happens, we can regulate our mood much better and feel a sense of control over our bodies and our mind.

High intensity movements or HIIT release a lot of dopamine due to the activation of many body muscles working at the same time and the rapid increase of heart rate.

According to McMahan (2017) who writes an article on the Cut, studies have shown that high intensity workouts also activate brain-derived neurotrophic factors. Brain-derived neurotrophic factors or BDNF support brain-cell survival, mood regulation, and cognitive functions such as learning and memory. In addition, it also supports mitochondrial capacity, which helps the cells in our bodies produce energy (McMahan, 2017).

HIIT movements are also incredibly fun and quick which is great for those of you who hate working out or feel the daunting struggle of cultivating energy you don’t have for a long workout.

The important thing here is that you want to activate the hormones that are going to make your body feel good and your brain feel relaxed, and not over activated with stress or cortisol. The more we practice exercises and other emotional regulation techniques, the more living a joyful and vibrant life becomes possible.

Practice with the workout circuit featured below. Notice if your mood changes or your energy level. If it does, try to practice it more consistently to cultivate more self-regulation and peace.

Exercises to Try (Fast paced, 20 seconds on, 20 seconds off) repeat 3-5x.

  • High jumps

  • Jumping jacks

  • Lunges


  • Squats