Runner’s High…Is It Real?

October 4, 2013 in Our News & Bulletins by Primary Spine & Rehab

People who love exercise often refer to a feeling of euphoria or invincibility that washes over them during good exercise. Some experience the feeling fairly regularly, while others refer to an exceptional experience that happens only occasionally. Whether the runner’s high is real or urban legend is still somewhat controversial among exercise physiologists, but we believe that good exercise creates an immediate, emotional benefit in addition to all the long-term benefits.

The following is a collection of explanations that could easily add up to one impressive net effect for those who exercise.

. Endorphins: Various researchers have measured elevated endorphin levels in the blood during strenuous exercise. Others point out that endorphin proteins are too large to pass through the blood-brain barrier meant to protect the brain. Keeping the endorphin debate going, German researchers used brain imaging technology to find that brains produce extra endorphin during exercise. Other researchers were able to block the endorphin receptors of subjects during exercise, but the exercisers still subjectively reported getting the runners’ high. So even though people often refer to the endorphin rush of exercise, it is possible if not likely that endorphins are not solely responsible for runners’ high. . Heat: Some experts have argued that the improved mood simply comes from the effects of a rising core body temperature on the brain. . Marijuana: The research of Arne Dietric, Ph.D, University of Beirut, also offers one possible explanation. After it was discovered that the brain had specific receptors for the THC in marijuana, Dietric philosophically reasoned that our bodies would not have a special receptor for some mood altering plant. He reasoned that it was more likely that this receptor was for an endogenous (internally produced) chemical, and it just happened to fit marijuana’s THC. Researchers discovered the endogenous chemical and named it anandamide (the Sanskrit word for bliss). Dietrich found that runners and bicyclists have increased blood levels of anandimide during strenuous exercise – but more so in runners. The anandimide is capable of passing the blood-brain barrier. It is likely that the chemicals your body produces during exercise stimulate the same brain receptors that cannabis stimulates.

So is it the relaxing heat effects like a sauna, the morphine like effects of endorphins, or the marijuana style high of anandamide? Of course, externally induced highs are cheap imitations of the real thing. We like to think the exercise high is some combination of all those effects and probably more.

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