The glorious afterglow—the least bragged about exercise gain, but just maybe the most important. That’s right—positive, consistent work out habits can offer a health benefit that lasts long after you leave the gym.

What is afterglow?

An afterglow is that warm feeling you experience after exercise. You may have showered and cooled down physically, but you’re still wrapped in a comforting cocoon of satisfaction and contentment. It’s a natural high caused by a surge of endorphins to the brain, which produces a feeling of well-being and happiness.

This feeling can continue well into your day, making food taste better, decisions simpler, and problems easier to solve. It can help you become more open-minded, kinder to yourself, and kinder to others.

While it’s best to work out early in the morning to reap this added exercise benefit, you’ll still experience some glow even if you opt to exercise later in the evening or at night—think calmer, more restful evenings and higher quality sleep.

How to achieve afterglow

First and foremost, find an exercise you love—something you’re excited to wake up or rush home for. Walking, light jogging, or restorative yoga are all great ways to maintain fitness levels and flexibility.

But to truly experience the afterglow, you need to commit to a serious sweat session, something that makes you breathe hard for at least 30 to 40 minutes. Those who choose to lace up and run 10Ks have always hyped the benefits of “runner’s high,” but don’t worry.

Everything from weightlifting, spin, and Pilates to HIIT, power yoga, and bootcamp classes can invoke those sought-after, precious afterglow feels. It’s your body’s way of saying, “Great job!” after you’ve broken a sweat and challenged yourself. A high five you can really feel.

What else can afterglow do?

Beyond the benefits of long-lasting serenity during your 9 to 5, the power of afterglow has one additional superpower. It’s one of the most common downfalls of even the best workout regime –consistency, or lack thereof—but with the right mindset, afterglow can help you stay on track.

If commitment to your January workout resolutions has started to fade, don’t panic. Rather than focus on the long, strenuous workout, recalibrate your mindset to focus on the afterglow and the long-term benefits it brings.

Focus on empowerment, brilliance, and inspiration. These are powerful feelings that can support your mindset, keep you on track, and help you crush your goals, but know they only come with an equally as powerful workout.

Another less talked about benefit is how afterglow can step into the role of the sweater you always forgot to bring. Working out and sweating naturally raise your body temperature, but the afterglow can keep you feeling warmer all day long. If your office thermostat consistently sits below 65 degrees, working out in the morning could be the perfect antidote to those chilly all-staff meetings—no sweater needed.

If you’ve experienced the afterglow but lost it along the way, it may be a good time to consider mixing up your routine. Within the realms of wellness, no higher energy comes from a place of complacency—it requires motivation and commitment. If you’re bored with the workout, I guarantee your mind is too. Try a new class, learn a new routine, or extend your workout for a little longer than usual. Afterglow is not afforded to those who play it safe.

This is the least talked-about benefit of exercise, but in my opinion, one of the best. Remember, the heat generated from a spirited and energetic workout is nature’s way of reminding you how good you feel after movement. That “feel good” can then be transferred into staying motivated to keep working towards your dreams, ideas, and future goals.

Photo credit: Alain Wong, Unsplash