Working up a sweat can feel like a great way to burn off stress and turn a day around. By now, many people have heard about the power of endorphins during a workout and some even pursue exercise to keep that ‘runner’s high’ going. Find out why people chase the endorphin high from running.
What Are Endorphins?
When the body feels stress or experiences pain, neurochemicals called endorphins are produced in the brain’s hypothalamus and pituitary gland. Endorphins are similar to morphine in that they are a natural painkiller which activate opioid receptors in the brain. Feelings of euphoria and well-being are distributed.
The idea that exercise creates a huge endorphin rush entered popular culture soon after endorphins were discovered in neuroscience. Many people like to feel good after intense exercise and even experience euphoric feelings. The feeling comes from inside the brain which floods the body with chemicals
Blood plasma endorphin levels do increase in response to stressors and pain but endorphins do not necessarily create a high. Endorphin levels are actually higher after a run and endorphins cannot pass through the blood-brain barrier which means they may have little to do with the high people experience. What does impact the brain is a neurotransmitter called anandamide. This becomes elevated after exercise and can travel from the blood to the brain.
What Really Happens
While a person may think endorphins are the key to feeling great post exercise, serotonin or norepinephrine may be the actual culprits. The production of neurotransmitters increase feelings of happiness and low levels of these have been linked with depression. Exercise has been known to support more positive mental health and alleviate depression.
Exercise is one way to promote positive health in recovery. If you are struggling in recovery or are looking to quit drugs or alcohol, call Harmony Place. We are a leader in programs which support more positive mental health outcomes and moving beyond substance use disorders. Call us at 1-888-789-4330.