Runners high driven by endorphins
May 24, 2018
It appears that the runners high really does exist and is caused by the release of endorphins. A study by researchers from Munich and University of Bonn used a PET scan to show that specific areas of the brain indicated an increase in endorphins in subjects jogging for two hours.
Lots of people have reported a runners high after running or exercising for a long period and a common idea was that this was due to increased release of endorphins in the brain. These substances mimic the effects of opiates resulting in the suppression of pain and an elevated mood. However the idea that the runners high was due to endorphins had never been demonstrated. Now we can tell all our non running friends that running really does make you feel good.
The study not only found increased endorphin levels but also indicated that the locations this occurred were important “the affected brain areas were preferentially located in prefrontal and limbic brain regions which are known to play a key role in emotional processing. Moreover, we observed a significant increase of the euphoria and happiness ratings compared to the ratings before the running exercise.”
The subjects did have to “jog” for two hours but presumably many runners have experienced it after a shorter period, I certainly have! It would be interesting to know at what point this begins to occur. Individual differences may have a role too since the researchers note that genetic disposition and opiate receptor distribution in the brain could be important. There is currently a study investigating this factor which will no doubt be of interest to all those running addicts and anyone who can’t keep out of the spinning class.