This content is brought to you in partnership with OrthoCarolina, one of the nation's leading orthopedic practices with offices across the Southeast. 

Elle Woods said it best in Legally Blonde: "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don't shoot their husbands, they just don't."

I mean, aside from that part about shooting husbands (she was working on a murder case in law school, okay?), our girl Elle was spot on about the link between exercising and mood changes.

In fact, according to a real-life professor of psychology at Boston University, Michael Otto, "The link between exercise and mood is pretty strong. Usually, within five minutes after moderate exercise, you get a mood-enhancement effect."

That makes sense. Basically, if you're feeling down, exercising could help you feel better by increasing serotonin and boosting your mood.

So then if you're feeling really down, you should exercise even harder. Right?

Not quite.

According to a study Otto performed with the American Psychological Association, he found when people exercise above their respiratory threshold — that is, above the point when it gets hard to talk — they postpone exercise's immediate mood boost by about 30 minutes. Given that, he recommends that workout neophytes start slowly, with a moderate exercise plan.

Starting slowly is key, but so is consistency, aka working out even when you really, really don't want to — especially then!

"Many people skip the workout at the very time it has the greatest payoff. That prevents you from noticing just how much better you feel when you exercise," Otto said. "Failing to exercise when you feel bad is like explicitly not taking an aspirin when your head hurts. That's the time you get the payoff."

We spoke with Jennifer Hill, a physical therapist at OrthoCarolina, to learn a bit more about how your mood impacts your workout (as well as how your workout impacts your mood). Here's what she had to say.

How does your mood impact your workout?

"I greatly enjoy working out and find it to be an excellent stress reliever. I can take out frustrations with another set of squats or another sprint up a steep hill," Hill said. "However, I can also dance through a workout in the best mood. Some days I feel so full of energy and bounce my way through a Zumba or HIIT kickboxing workout with a smile on my face the entire time."

Hill said that her mood often determines her workout. It goes a little something like this:

  • If she needs to blow off steam, she lifts weights or runs intervals.
  • If she feels energized and happy, she goes for a run with blissful music or does plyometrics
  • If she feels exhausted, she knows that some activity is still better than none, so she'll go for a walk and call a friend or turn on a yoga video.

"Sometimes I know I need a pick me up, so going for a run or getting a good sweat on wakes me up and invigorates me," she added. "I cater my workout to match my energy and mood! That way I don't feel forced into any exercise, and I know my tempo will match my mood."

How does your workout impact your mood?

For Hill, there is no greater feeling than knowing that she made it through a tough workout.

"I feel accomplished and empowered after conquering a difficult physical task," she explained. "I also know that my body might be tired now, but I am stronger and my joints and muscles will be safer and less prone to injury."

But beyond experiencing that logical thought response, Hill knows that her workouts impact her mood chemically, too.

"Research has shown that exercise releases chemicals in your body called endorphins that interact with receptors in your brain to improve your mood and decrease pain perception," she said. "Exercise has also been linked to improving sleep and boosting your metabolism."

Learn more about making healthy choices from the experts at OrthoCarolina

Whether you've recently experienced an injury, need help with recovery after tough workouts, or are simply experiencing chronic pain and need help managing it, OrthoCarolina can help. Make an appointment at a location near you to start getting the treatment you need.