Trained Podcast: Mental Health Mini-Series: Jennifer Heisz, PhD


This neuroscientist went from sedentary scholar to Ironman finisher. Hear how her research on mental health and movement motivated her.

Last updated: 3 January 2022
2 min read
How Exercise Improves Mental Health, According to Dr Jennifer Heisz

Trained is a podcast exploring the cutting edge of holistic fitness.

When Jennifer Heisz, PhD, decided to complete an Ironman, she wasn't looking to earn bragging rights. After years of researching how exercise can fight anxiety and depression, she wanted to feel the effects for herself. Then the pandemic closed her lab, shut down gyms and cancelled races. In the face of piled-on stress and uncertainty, she not only organised her own Ironman, she finished it solo. Along the way, she uncovered the pandemic paradox: Mental health is both a motivator and a barrier to exercise. On this episode, Dr Heisz joins host Jaclyn Byrer to kick off our three-part mental health mini-series by telling us what to do when anxiety stifles our urge to get moving. She also gives us a crash course on what goes on in the brain and body when we experience anxiety, stress or depression, and the ways that movement can ward off their symptoms. By detailing her scientific findings and her athletic journey, she shows us why it doesn't take training for an Ironman to boost your brain, it just takes a little bit of movement every day.

"The beautiful thing about exercise is that you feel good after every workout, even an easy workout … because these neurochemicals are just flooding your brain".

Jennifer Heisz
PhD, director of the NeuroFit Lab and author of Move the Body, Heal the Mind

Have a question about mindset, movement, nutrition, recovery or sleep? Have a suggestion for a guest or topic? Email Jaclyn at and she'll see what she can do.

Originally published: 31 December 2021

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