Why Running Gets You High — And How To Get Yours.
Runner’s high is one of the things that drives some people to exercise – a neurobiological sense of euphoria that occurs during and after distance running — triggering the release of brain chemicals called endocannabinoids (eCBs) (which, by the way, work in the same way as the active ingredient of marijuana), and providing an improved sense of well-being, reduced anxiety, post-exercise calm, and even reduced pain in many folks.
But from a “hard-science” perspective, what causes this “high” — and does it exist beyond the purely psychological?
Enter Dr. David Raichlen, of the University of Arizona, who wanted to measure eCB levels in two cursorial (read here: specialized for running) species (humans and dogs), and one non-cursorial species (hello, ferrets).
Details of the study, published in The Journal of Experimental Biology, can be found here, but the bottom line? Humans and dogs experience runner’s high; ferrets have no such feelings.
Dr. Raichlen argues that it makes sense for ferrets, since such exercise is not crucial to sneaking down burrows and killing rabbits in their sleep (aww…). For ancient humans, however, remaining fit enough to run after game and away from predators and enemies was vital for survival. Ditto for mammals like horses, wolves… and dogs.
In other words: Baby, we were born to run.
Raichen and his colleagues have gone as far as to suggest that this evidence could be the start of a solution to America’s obesity crisis and help us end our sedentary ways; that exercise can literally be viewed as a drug to not only get you high, but improve your mental health and a host of other human ailments.
But before you start trying to run around the neighborhood to the tune of 26.2 miles — get in shape. Work up properly. Work out smart. And put your good health in the hands of an ACSM-certified Definitions trainer.
It starts with a free consultation… and ends in… bliss.