The Anatomy of “Runner’s High”

The good buzz you feel after a hard run or other strenuous exercise is your brain rewarding you for the hard work. A neuroscientist explains how it works.

Exercise reduces stress, eases pain – or at least the perception of it – and boosts mood. Those are the benefits of the so-called “runner’s high.” But what is a runner’s high? And is it truly good for you?

Brain Chemistry
New research shows that after nearly two hours of running, study participants experienced changes in the natural endorphin and opioid system activities in different brain regions, which was linked to the runners feeling more euphoric and happy than before running.

Remember: The Runner’s High is not a myth – but it does take work to find it! Physical fitness and endurance have to be achieved before you can get that intense “feel good” buzz after a work out.

While many studies and the name itself focuses on runners, any endurance athlete can achieve an exercise-related high.

No Pain
Scientists had theorized that the euphoria experienced after a rigorous workout is simply the body’s way of responding to a painful situation – by upping the amount of feel-good chemicals to allow a higher-tolerance for pain. However, more recent studies debunk this claim. Study participants who reported feelings of euphoria also reported never feeling pain or discomfort during or within a couple of hours after their workouts. The researchers concluded that the euphoria they experienced could not be a biological response to suffering.

Remember: Aches and pains are part of the training process, but if you feel constant pain during and after your workouts that never seems to get better, it’s time to talk to a physician about potential injuries.

After Effects
Interview data suggests that people who train for endurance have a higher pain tolerance during their workouts and for a few hours after.

Remember: The more you workout, better you’ll feel all around – from increased endorphin release to increased pain tolerance. If you have suffered exercise related injuries and/or your doctor has advised you to tone down your routine, follow that advice. Despite what you feel, you could be creating conditions for major complications down the road.

Not Just Runners
While many studies and the name itself focuses on runners, any endurance athlete can achieve an exercise-related high.

Remember: The key is achieving fitness through endurance exercises that have a cardiovascular component. Swimming and cycling are other good examples.

Have you experienced runner’s high? Do you experience a good buzz after you exercise hard? Share your experiences and thoughts in Comments so we can all learn from each other.

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  1. I feel pain after training, I use to run 13 km per day sometimes might caused by the running too fast.

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