​Endorphin-boosting workouts

Know exactly how to increase your endorphins with exercise

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The fitness industry can be a bit fickle.

Last year the ab crack was the all-desirable body feature.

The summer just gone was the season of the booty – did anyone else notice that every other Instagram post featured the peach icon, without a single reference to nature's sweet, succulent fruit?

But there is one trend I can get behind, and it feels more like a psychological shift than a fleeting act of vanity: exercise for the sake of feeling good.

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Endorphins are singlehandedly the best side effect of regular exercise.

The euphoria of standing up from your last rep, against the protest of your trembling legs, and knowing you've conquered more than just a workout.

You've put your willpower to the test and you've come out the other side stronger.

Damn right, you should feel good!

But how you work out can actually increase your post-exercise buzz.

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Imagine if every time you need a mood boost, you knew exactly how to turn a bleak Z day into a blissful A day.

Read on for an enlightened, euphoric new take on exercise…

Compound movements

Good circulation has a powerful effect on your overall wellbeing.

Good distribution of oxygen around the body ensures you're quick on the feet and sharp in the mind.

And how you move on the outside can manipulate the way your blood moves on the inside.

Compound movements are the best way to take control of your circulation.

When you squat, the blood goes to your legs to fill your working muscles with oxygen.

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When you press a pair of dumbbells above your head, the blood goes straight to the upper body.

When you combine the two movements with a squat press, your body has to work extra hard to pump blood in opposite directions – say hello to a bigger cardiovascular response, a more efficient workout and a flood of feel-good endorphins hormones pumping through your body.

On-off cardio drills

Tabata is the most traditional form of HIIT training – 20 seconds of high-intensity exercise, followed by 10 seconds of rest.

As you get stronger, you can start to play with these work and rest periods.

Intermediate exercisers may be better suited to 30 seconds of work followed by 15 seconds of rest, while the very fit may need 45 seconds of hard work to get the same response before they rest.

However you format your on-off cardio drills, it's important to factor in the rest time.

By working for shorter intervals, you can push your body harder, and pull back before your stress hormone cortisol starts to kick in.

Endurance athletes often have higher levels of cortisol, a result of the body dealing with repetitive and sustained stress.

Shock the body with shorter, sharper bursts of activity and you not only feel motivated to earn that breather, you also get a purer dose of endorphins without the nasty side effect of cortisol.

Team up

When exercise becomes a social activity, you benefit on multiple levels.

Oxytocin – the love hormone – has a direct impact on your happiness levels, so combining the endorphin release of exercise with the fuzzy feeling of hanging out with a good friend is just plain smart.

Try taking a fitness class together.

I design my weekly Fit Brit Collective Bootcamps around groups and pairs to create the most euphoric workout experience possible.

Try adding partner drills to your own workouts – think bridging with your feet pressed together, plank holds while the other jumps from side to side over your legs (unshakeable trust required), squats with a medicine ball throw to your partner and back again.

Happy hour guaranteed.

Post-workout drinks optional.

Take a (freezing) dip

Scientists recently found that even brief exposure to cold water – 20 seconds at 5 degrees is enough to do the trick – releases adrenaline in the body.

Cue something similar to that focused, can't-stop-me feeling after your morning coffee.

Immerse yourself a little longer and you'll also see heightened levels of the pleasure hormone dopamine.

So skip the sauna and hit the cold pool, or push yourself extra hard in your last set to make that cold shower feel a little more enticing.

Brit Williams is the founder of Fit Brit Collective. Between training clients, running bootcamps and teaching classes across SW London's leading studios, she is proud to work with ELLE to bring you the latest fitness news, trends and advice. Her fitness philosophy is simple – the endorphins you earn have the greatest power to transform.

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