Run, Baby, Run! Why It Matters

The runner’s high phenomenon is fueled by reports of euphoria or elation experienced during or after running. From cardio to weightlifting, exercise causes the body to release energy and mood-improving endorphins Trusted Source. But can these endorphins create a “high”?

Need a mood boost? Maybe it’s time to start training for that marathon.

One group of researchers found an increase in pleasure receptor activity in the brain after two hours of jogging, which could start to explain the feelings of euphoria experienced by some avid long-distance runners Trusted Source. Need a mood boost? Maybe it’s time to start training for that half-marathon.

Hit The Ground Running—The Answer/Debate

While some studies support the runner’s high, we don’t have all the answers just yet. In the previously mentioned study, the sample size was very small, just 10 already-fit subjects Trusted Source. And while each athlete’s brain activity was scanned using advanced imaging techniques, receptor levels were not measured during the run, when the supposed “high” is generally reported. Another study showed a clear connection between 50 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise and increased activity in the body’s release of natural drug-like compoundsTrusted Source.

A 2012 study found that after intense endurance activity, fit subjects experienced an increase in endocannabinoids, the brain chemicals that signal pleasure Trusted Source. This “neurobiological rewards” theory of the runner’s high has it that we humans might just have evolved to enjoy running! So despite a clear connection between exercise and the release of endorphins and endocannabinoids, the support for a runner’s “high” is still mostly anecdotalTrusted Source.