According to a new study, it’s not just long-term benefits that exercise can deliver. After a 30-minute workout, women said that they saw themselves as thinner and stronger.
A recent study published in Psychology of Sport and Exercise looked at 60 college-age women with body-image issues. They were put into two groups: one did a 30-minute cycling workout while the other half sat reading quietly. The group that cycled reported feeling better about how their body looked for up to 20 minutes after the workout, right before they left the lab.
It’s common knowledge that exercise releases endorphins, which could explain why women felt happier about their appearance. But according to the researchers, when they took an even closer look at the participants’ moods, they found that women specifically reported feeling stronger and thinner, no matter what their mood or confidence levels were.
Although there wasn’t research done to determine the ideal 30-minute workout routine for a better body image, it seems to have a lot to do with intensity. A moderate- to high-intensity workout is necessary. “Women have to feel challenged so they can walk away saying, ‘Wow, I am strong. I am capable,’” says senior author of the study Kathleen Martin Ginis, a professor of health and exercise science at the University of British Columbia in Canada.
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On the other hand, you want to be sure that you aren’t jumping into a routine you’re unprepared to handle. This could just diminish your self-confidence if and when you can’t complete it. Ginis explains that she’s studied women who rarely exercise and gave them a similar 30-minute workout. This only led them to feeling worse immediately after. So the key to instantly feeling better is to challenge yourself within reason.
“We all have those days when we don’t feel great about our bodies,” says Ginis. “Our research shows that one way to feel better, with pretty much immediate effects, is to get moving.”