Say Hi to Runner's High
Exercise, like running, cycling or swimming, can have a tremendously positive impact on your health. Did you know it can benefit your mental health, too? It’s true—and many runners cite a feeling of post-run euphoria called “runner’s high.”
What is it and what does it mean for your body? And is it possible for anyone to achieve without running?
For researchers, quantifying a feeling like runner’s high is a big ask because it’s subjective. Plus, many runners report never having felt a runner’s high. But those who experience it describe being in a deeply relaxed and satisfied post-run state.
Many attribute runner’s high to a rush of endorphins, aka “feel-good” chemicals in our blood that make their way into our brain.
- Endorphins are neurochemicals released naturally by your body. Your central nervous system and pituitary glands are responsible for producing them.
However, research shows endorphins actually have no effect on runner’s high.
- Endorphins are too large to cross the blood-brain barrier. This built-in feature protects our brains from certain pathogens and molecules.
So, what’s the answer?
One theory: Instead of endorphins, it’s a combination of norepinephrine secretion, dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters tend to be produced and released in higher volume during intense exercise, such as running. They are known to produce the following:
- Reduced anxiety
- Feeling calm
Sounds a lot like runner’s high, right?
Of course, not everyone runs, and that’s okay. There are plenty of other ways to get good exercise and experience many of the same post-run feelings.
For those who exercise on a regular basis, feelings of lower anxiety and overall satisfaction contribute to long-term health and happiness. Call it runner’s high—or just bask in knowing you’ve accomplished something positive for yourself. The benefits of regular exercise surely have no boundary.
Ready to reward your hard work? See how the Wellness Incentive Program helps Standard and Basic Option members take charge of their health.