If you're an avid runner, there's no doubt that the joy of attaining that "runner's high" keeps you lacing up your sneakers time and time again. And according to new studies, it's as real as the type of high you get from a drug, all thanks to two main kinds of opioid receptors.
Let's start with mu-opioid reward receptors (MORs). They're responsible for releasing the pleasure-inducing chemical dopamine in both rodents and humans. Researchers at the University of Missouri Columbia
conducted a study in which they looked at the reward center in the brains of two types of rats. One type was bred to be lazy and one was bred to love exercise. The active group was found to have had four times as many MORs in their brains. It was also discovered that a cardio session stimulated MORs the same way very addictive drugs such as cocaine do.
In comparison, humans also have more MORs than others, just like the rats. This helps us to understand why some of us hit the ground running, whether with drug addiction or exercise, and others prefer a much more laid-back approach to life. Simply put, some people's brains are wired to want a certain level of stimulation, explains the study's lead author Greg Ruegsegger, a doctoral candidate at the University of Missouri Columbia.
In even more interesting news, the researchers of the study have hypothesized that working out might be beneficial to drug addiction recovery, as people's brains can find a similar and healthier source of stimulation from the exercise-induced endorphins.
Researchers of another study at the University of Hamburg and the University of Heidleberg in Germany also found that running produces a chemical that stimulates your cannabinoid receptors, which respond to marijuana as well. The study discovered that running was able to increase mices' pain tolerance and decrease their anxiety — the side effects associated with the herb.
What do you think of these findings?
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