You've probably heard of the term 'Runner's High'. The phenomenon is often described as a state of euphoria, a feeling of being invincible, a reduced state of pain, and even a loss in time. But what causes this mysterious feeling experienced by runners? Let's delve into the physiology behind 'Runner's High'.
What is 'Runner's High'?
'Runner's High' refers to a brief, deeply relaxing state of euphoria that is experienced during or immediately after running or other forms of extended, intense exercise. It's often described as feeling 'on top of the world', or having a profound sense of peace and happiness. This is the body's natural response to prolonged physical activity, primarily running.
The role of Endorphins
For many years, endorphins were thought to be the main cause of the 'Runner's High'. Endorphins are chemicals produced in the brain during stress and pain. They are the body's natural painkillers. They interact with the same receptors as some pain medicines, reducing the perception of pain and triggering positive feelings in the body.
However, while endorphins are released during exercise, recent research suggests they may not cross the blood-brain barrier and therefore may not contribute significantly to the 'Runner's High'.
Role of Endocannabinoids
Instead, a class of chemicals called endocannabinoids may be more responsible for the euphoria associated with 'Runner's High'. These are small molecules that activate the same receptors as THC, the active ingredient in cannabis.
During exercise, the level of an endocannabinoid called anandamide increases in the blood. This molecule can cross the blood-brain barrier and has been linked to feelings of euphoria and tranquillity, which are often described as part of the 'Runner's High'.
The effects of 'Runner's High' on mental health
The 'Runner's High' is not just about feeling good after a workout. It also has profound effects on mental health. Regular physical activity can help manage stress, anxiety and depression. The 'Runner's High' can contribute to this effect by promoting positive mood and feelings of well-being.
The 'Runner's High' can also contribute to improved sleep and increased pain tolerance, both of which can positively impact mental health.
Here's a brief summary of the physiological and mental effects of 'Runner's High':
Achieving 'Runner's High'
While 'Runner's High' is most often associated with long-distance running, it can be experienced with other forms of sustained, high-intensity exercise. The key is to push beyond the point of comfort, to a level of effort where the body begins to respond by releasing endorphins and endocannabinoids.
In conclusion, while the 'Runner's High' is an interesting phenomenon, it's just one piece of the puzzle of why exercise makes us feel good. Physical activity has numerous benefits, not only for our physical health but also for our mental wellbeing. So, lace up your running shoes and hit the road, and maybe you'll find your own 'Runner's High'.