The science behind the Hydrow high: mental fitness boost

Kelly Johnson
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Written by: Kristin Haraldsdottir, PhD

Your mental state after a workout sets the tone for the rest of your day, and can play a pivotal role in your mood, productivity, and ability to concentrate. You know that incredible feeling you get after finishing a great Hydrow workout that makes you feel like you can tackle your to-do list with ease? We call that the Hydrow high, and there’s a lot of science backing up why you feel so energized and mentally fit after a Hydrow workout. 

How does exercise improve mental fitness?

Exercise increases blood flow, meaning there is more delivery of oxygen, hormones and other chemicals through the body, including to the brain. Not only is increased blood flow good for your cardiovascular and heart health, but the effects of exercise on your brain have been shown to contribute to improved executive functioning, greater ability to pay attention to a task, and better memory

Exercise might also help make your brain more resilient, where improving fitness can increase the thickness of parts of the brain that are associated with higher level processes, like consciousness, thought, emotion, language, and memory. Research by scientists at the University of Minnesota found that greater cortical thickness in the brain is associated with many measures of intelligence using the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence, including vocabulary, and verbal, non-verbal and general cognitive reasoning ability.

Stress and the Hydrow high

Did you know that what you are listening to during your workout can have a significant effect on the rest of your day? Researchers in Brazil have found that listening to storytelling increases oxytocin levels (a hormone associated with social bonding, stress regulation, and mental health), lowers cortisol (a steroid hormone associated with increased stress), and lowers the sensation of pain. Whether it’s Aquil Abdullah sharing his journey from training for the Olympics to navigating life with kids during a pandemic, or Mac Evans motivating us through a workout while reminding us of the bigger picture through a story about giving back, our Hydrow Athletes keep you engaged during your workouts by weaving in storytelling as they guide you through. 

Great music can also be a game changer for your mood anytime. In fact, when it comes to working out, listening to music during exercise has been shown to increase parasympathetic nervous activity after exercise- which means that not only does it help your physical recovery after a workout, but all the mental benefits, including lower stress, of high parasympathetic tone are more likely. Every Hydrow workout has a great playlist, and some of our workouts are even structured around a DJ mix by our in-house DJ J Boogie. 

The benefits of nature - and Live Outdoor Reality

The great outdoors has many wonderful, and well-documented benefits, and exercising outdoors provides amplified health benefits, including greater improvements in mental health and psychophysiological benefits due to the positive effect of nature and green exercise. Hydrow workouts - streamed to you from scenic waterways around the world - can provide you with some of the same benefits as a workout outside.  Research has shown that just five minutes spent viewing nature scenes after a stressful event lowers stress, improves self esteem, and decreases the negative mood effects of the stressful event. In fact, your heart rate variability, which is driven by your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, increases after just five minutes of viewing nature scenes, and means that you’ll not only get a great workout and boost your mood, but you’ll have longer lasting benefits to your stress level. 

Mental fitness and the Hydrow high

We all know that there are innumerable physical benefits to regularly working out with Hydrow - it is, after all, a whole-body workout that is efficient and effective for building fitness and strength. But while the physical thrill of a great workout is one that we know very well, the benefits go well beyond just the physical. The Hydrow high is a mental fitness boost; it’s the convergence point where you can prioritize what matters most, your mind is sharp, and you’re ready to problem solve like a boss.