A man doing bicep curls in the gym

What Happens to Your Body After Exercise?

When you exercise, blood is pumped into the muscles you’re working out, increasing blood flow and oxygen levels. There’s a reason exercise science is a major course of study at most universities. A lot goes into the science behind the human body and what exactly happens when you choose to exercise. After you exercise, your body is working to readjust to its newfound status. While working out, your muscles tear, your heart rate rises, and your body sends more blood and energy to certain areas that need it.

When you’re done, your body has to work hard to return to that normal state and recover from what just happened. Even before you really get going with your work out, your body has already begun some serious changes. By the time you’ve put the weights down or stepped off the treadmill, your body is already in recovery mode, so it can function properly after the strain it was put under.

Humankind is meant to be fit, from our days as hunter-gatherers to our present status as pencil pushers. Your body wants to be in tip-top shape so that it can survive. That’s why it’s important to know what is happening to it throughout the whole fitness process, especially when you’ve just finished an intense workout.

What Happens When You Start Working Out?

A man benchpressing in the gym

When you start working out, your heart rate is elevated and your blood starts pumping faster through your veins. Your body is working to keep up its vital functions and feed you the energy that you need to continue safely.

For example, your heart begins working harder to get the proper amount of blood to your organs and limbs. At the same time, your digestive system is working less. Your digestive track slows itself so you can keep control of your bodily functions until your episode of exercise is over– another demonstration of an evolutionary process.

In this crucial start period, your body has already begun to adapt to what you’re putting it through. You’re getting more blood to your brain that allows you to block out pain levels and kick in important systems that help you keep your energy levels up. That’s why you start to feel pleasant after a certain amount of exercise. While it may be tough at first, your body releases endorphins and levels of adrenaline that make it a positive experience. You just need to get over the hump first.

What Happens When You Continue to Exercise?

A woman exercising on a machine in the gym

When you continue to exercise, energy is directed to the areas of your body that need it the most. Above all else, your body wants to keep you energized, so you don’t just completely collapse in a pit of sweat and despair. Naturally, it wants to find the most effective and efficient bodily processes to get you through your ordeal. For example, sweating.

Sweating doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of shape. It is just your body’s way of trying to cool you off so your bodily systems can stay cool and not overheat. Your body wants to remain at a comfortable and healthy core temperature that doesn’t put you in any danger.

Another way your body keeps you going is by putting blood in the places that need them the most. When you’re straining and gurgling to get your weights up, your body is sending more blood to the muscles you’re using. For example, when you’re doing bench presses, your body is sending more blood to your arms and chest so it can help support and satiate your muscles while they are being exerted.

This process is known as prioritizing blood. If you’re not using your legs during an exercise, your body may borrow a little bit of blood here and there and send it to the area that needs it most. In this way, your body continues to properly function as a whole, and you live to see another day.

What About After You’re Done Working Out?

A tired woman resting after finishing her workout

When you’re done working out, a myriad of things will start happening inside of your body. Depending on your fitness level, your body will do everything in its power to get you back to normal as soon as possible. Your body adapts to fitness and grows stronger as a result, but it is also kind of shocked at what just took place. That’s the idea at the very core of working out.

When you work out, you’re muscles physically tear, and your limbs grow tired. Over time, these parts of the body rebuild themselves and get used to what just happened—and that’s what fitness is. The more you stretch yourself and the more you push the boundaries of your own body, the more your body gets used to it, and the more of it can be handled in the future.

Think of a marathon runner. By running miles and miles during their training, they’re able to physically run more miles than ever before by the time the race comes around. You’re setting up and breaking new boundaries with every workout. You feel tired when you’re done because you used up the majority of the energy your body has to give.

All the bodily functions that rose to new heights during your workout will suddenly stop having to do that. Your body tries to return to homeostasis—balance, and there is a bit of an adjustment period as a result.

While you’re at rest, your muscles will start to reform causing soreness, your blood vessels will go back to their normal size, and the blood will transfer to the other areas of the body where it is needed most. It’s your body’s way of telling you “good job” and preparing for the next onslaught of physical excursion.

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