The Science Behind a “Runner’s High”

The Science Behind a “Runner’s High”

Psychologically, runners may experience a feeling of being invincible, a reduced discomfort, and loss in sense of time according to Jesse Pittsley, Ph.D., American Society for Exercise Physiologists. It is commonly known as a “Runner’s High” that makes every running experience easier and more euphoric. Through long hours of running, athletes release feel-good chemicals that can increase their speed. It also serves a natural painkiller for blistered feet and masking tired legs.

“Runner’s High” is a phrase that describes feelings of psychological well-being. It has been associated with a rhythmic and long-duration of exercise including marathon running. But, why does a ‘Runner’s High’ make a runner feel good? What is the science behind the phenomenon?

Many believe that the answer lies in endorphins. When a person exercises for a long period of time, endorphins are released. It has an effect that is often associated with morphine. However, based on current studies, when the effects of endorphins have been chemically blocked, subjects have still felt high.

With that, researchers have taken other neurotransmitters into account because they might greatly affect a person’s emotion or mood. Aside from endorphins, norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine tend to be produced during an extreme exercise. Though they serve as a remedy for depression, people believe that they might be responsible for Runner’s High.

Runner’s High has been also associated with body temperature. Some believe that the science behind the feeling of well-being is the elevation in body temperature. When athletes have especially tough exercise routines, their body temperature will elevate through the part of the brain called the hypothalamus.

Continuous and tough exercise can produce a state that is characterized by feelings of elation and contentment. Current medical studies and reviews indicate that there is an array of endogenous euphoriants that produce euphoria. More particularly, they release phenethylamine, anandamide, and endorphin.

Phenethylamine acts as endogenous amphetamine. From moderate to extreme physical exercise, urinary B-phenylacetic acid levels rise. Anandamide is a neurotransmitter that is associated with cannabinoid receptors.

Though there are a lot of explanations why athletes feel euphoric after an exercise, finishing a marathon is more fulfilling. Once runners reach the finish line, they will realize that their great efforts and preparations are all worth it.

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