Runners High

Feel the Rush: The Runner’s High Revealed

For many, running is not just a form of exercise but it’s fun, lets you traverse over different terrain and explore new areas, and can benefit your mental health, among other things. If you’ve ever experienced a surge of euphoria and a sense of invincibility while running, you’ve encountered what is commonly known as “runner’s high.” But what exactly is a runner’s high? How does one achieve it and more importantly, what does science have to say about it?

What is a Runner’s High?

A runner’s high is often described as a euphoric sensation that can occur during or after a prolonged bout of aerobic exercise, most commonly running. It’s characterized by feelings of elation, reduced anxiety, and a sense of calm. Some runners describe it as feeling invincible, with an enhanced ability to push through physical barriers.

The Science Behind a Runner’s High

Recent research by Hilary A. Marusak, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences says that the “runner’s high” may result from molecules called cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are the body’s own version of THC and CBD. Here are other advancements in neuroscience and physiology experts have begun to unravel the mystery of a “runner’s high.”

  • Endorphins⎯The most well-known theory attributes the runner’s high to endorphins which are natural chemicals produced by the body that act as painkillers and mood elevators. These endorphins are released during prolonged exercise, binding to opioid receptors in the brain which can produce feelings of euphoria.
  • Endocannabinoids⎯These are naturally occurring compounds similar to the active ingredients in cannabis, and play a pivotal role in the runner’s high. These molecules can cross the blood-brain barrier more easily than endorphins and have been shown to produce anxiety-reducing and mood-enhancing effects.
  • Dopamine and Serotonin⎯Exercise also promotes the release of dopamine and serotonin which are neurotransmitters associated with pleasure and well-being.

The Benefits of a Runner’s High

Experiencing a “runner’s high” offers more than just a temporary mood boost. Here are some longer-term benefits:

  • Mental Health⎯The euphoric feelings associated with a “runner’s high” can significantly reduce stress and anxiety. Over time, regular exercise can lead to improved mental health and a more positive outlook.
  • Improved Physical Performance⎯The sense of invincibility and reduced perception of pain can help you push through physical barriers, enhancing your overall performance and endurance.
  • Increased Motivation⎯Once you’ve experienced a “runner’s high,” the memory of that euphoric state can serve as a powerful motivator, encouraging you to lace up your shoes and hit the road again.

We hope this post has provided valuable insights into the fascinating world of a runner’s high. Whether you’re a seasoned marathoner or a casual jogger, may your future runs be filled with joy, fulfillment, and perhaps a dollop of euphoria.

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Happy running!

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