As a runner reaches the peak of their workout, they may experience a rush of euphoria, a feeling commonly referred to as a “runner’s high”. This sensation has been described as both invigorating and addictive, and it’s no surprise that many runners crave this feeling. But what exactly is happening in the brain to create this sensation, and what are the benefits of experiencing a runner’s high?
At the core of the runner’s high phenomenon are endorphins. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that are produced by our bodies to help us deal with pain and stress. The production of endorphins can be triggered by many different things, including exercise, sex, and eating spicy food.
When we exercise vigorously, our bodies release endorphins as a way to cope with the physical stress of the activity. These endorphins act as natural painkillers, which can help to reduce discomfort and fatigue during a workout. But, they also have a secondary effect on the brain that can contribute to the runner’s high.
Endorphins are similar in structure to opiate drugs like morphine, which is why they are often referred to as “the body’s natural opiates”. These neurotransmitters can bind with opiate receptors in the brain, producing a feeling of euphoria and pleasure similar to that produced by opiate drugs.
In addition to the pleasurable feeling associated with a runner’s high, there are also other benefits of endorphin production. Studies have shown that endorphins can help to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, improve immune function, and even lower blood pressure.
Regular exercise has also been shown to improve cognitive function, increase self-esteem and reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. This means that the benefits of endorphins go beyond just the immediate pleasure of the runner’s high, with long-term physical and mental health improvements also being associated with regular exercise.
But, it’s important to note that not all runners experience a runner’s high. The intensity and duration of the workout, as well as individual differences in endorphin production, can all contribute to whether or not you experience this phenomenon. It’s also important to keep in mind that attempting to chase the runner’s high can be dangerous, as it may cause you to push yourself too hard and risk injury.
In conclusion, the runner’s high is a fascinating and pleasurable experience that can be attributed to the natural production of endorphins in our bodies. While there are many benefits to experiencing this phenomenon, it’s important to remember that it is just one of the many positive outcomes of regular exercise. So, next time you hit the pavement, keep in mind the many ways that your body is benefiting from your hard work, even if you don’t experience a runner’s high.