We all know runners (you may be one), the sort that runs in all conditions, does so in what seems to be some sort of religious dedication that sometimes appears to defy reality. It is like they are high -- which is exactly how many runners describe the feeling that overcomes them.
Science knows why
! It has found that rhythmic, continuous aerobic exercise, like running, produces narcotic-like chemicals in the body during and immediately after exercise.
Natural chemicals similar to opium and marijuana are manufactured in your brain.
Endorphins, such wonderful things. A study done in 2008 found that during 2 hour long runs, the part of the brain that gushed endorphins was the same part of the brain that lights up when responding to emotions like love. This might explain the euphoric feelings reported by many runners. But science isn't able to make these claims with complete certainty as this study was done with a really small sample (10, already fit runners). Because endorphins vary between people they can't explain what effect they actually have on a person's psyche.
Want to know what science is willing to say? There is a lot of evidence that points to your brains producing a natural chemical similar to marijuana after moderate intensity exercise. Endocannabinoids, is a naturally synthesized version of the same chemical the gets you high but it can have an even greater effect on your body. Unlike endorphins which are only produced by specific neurons in your brain, any cell in your body can produce endocannabinoids.
It goes back to your ancestors.
It appears that this ability to get "high" while running is hard wired into us.
Many anthropologists believe that our survival depended on our ability to chase down our prey to exhaustion. The ability to produce endocannabinoids is what helped them get it done. David A. Raichlen, a professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona tested this theory.
He found an excess of endocannabinoids in distance running animals like dogs (and humans) but found no trace of it in non distance runners like ferrets. Evolution, baby!
Your body needs to be in a state of discomfort.
You do have to push yourself and run for at least 30 minutes a day.
Endorphins are your body's natural painkillers, produced when it experiences discomfort. The good news is that you don't have to exhaust yourself.
Endocannabinoids are also triggered by physical stress so some exertion is necessary here too. One doctor conducted research that found for optimal production of endocannabinoids, runners need 8 hours of sleep. It is also useful to remember that endocannabinoids are 3 times higher in the mornings.
AND, running isn't the only rhythmic workout that can get you high. If you aren't into pounding pavement, swimming, cycling and rowing can produce the same effect.
It's worth a shot.
Can you really go wrong? I mean, worst case scenario, you don't get the short term high. Big deal. The long term benefits of regular exercise make this experiment more than worth it. Why don't you do something like get yourself trained to run a half marathon. Crossing that finish line, achieving that goal, can give you a high that lasts for days!
I'm not much into running, but all this has me thinking of pushing it in the pool. How about you? Does this ring true for you or inspire you to give it a go?