October 9, 2015—Runner’s high is a sense of well-being many of us know well. What we have repeatedly told ourselves is that the “high” feeling is associated with endorphins, which our body produces during long periods of exercise. But according to a new study, this account of events may not tell the whole story after all.
Superficially speaking, the endorphins theory is a convincing tale. But what researchers from the Central Institute of Mental Health of the University of Heidelberg have found by putting the 1980’s theory to test is that endocannabinoids may actually play a major role in making you feel “high” after a long run.
According to the study, running, “increases endocannabinoids and reduces both anxiety and sensation of pain,” impacting a range of physiological processes in our bodies. Like cannabis, the body’s self-produced endocannabinoids may be associated with the “high” feeling you experience after long periods of exercise.
From the Washington Post:
“Researchers from the Central Institute of Mental Health of the University of Heidelberg took mice and gave them running wheels. They found that after the runs, the mice were less anxious and tolerated pain better.
Then they used drugs to block the animals’ endocannabinoid system. The results were striking. The animals were as anxious after running as before running and more sensitive to pain.”
This is the first time a team of researchers links runner’s high to the cannabinoid receptors.
Only mice were used in this study. Researchers are still unsure of how the same exercise would play out in humans. If proven correct, however, runners might want to reconsider the endorphin mantra.
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