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. Some people run to chase the endorphin high achieved from running, and these natural endorphins can also help to battle addiction.
What Are Endorphins?
When the body feels stress or experiences pain, neurochemicals called endorphins are made in the brain’s hypothalamus and pituitary gland. Endorphins are similar to morphine in that they are a natural painkiller and activate opioid receptors in the brain.
- Feelings of euphoria and well-being are distributed throughout the body when endorphins are released.
The idea that exercise creates a big endorphin rush was spread around in popular culture soon after the discovery of endorphins in neuroscience. Many people feel good after intense exercise and may even experience euphoric feelings.
- The euphoric feeling of a runner’s high comes from inside the brain, which floods the body with feel-good 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, but endorphins cannot pass through the blood-brain barrier, which means they may have little to do with the high people experience.
- A neurotransmitter called anandamide impacts the brain. This becomes elevated after exercise and can travel from the blood to the brain.
What Really Happens
While a person may think that endorphins are the key to feeling great after exercise, serotonin or norepinephrine may be the actual culprits. The production of these neurotransmitters increases 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.
The Benefits of Running
Running at a moderate pace for just a few minutes out of every day can help reduce the risk of stroke, heart attack, and some diseases. It’s not necessary to run excessively, however, and some studies even show that overtraining can cause injuries such as shin splints.
- Running helps lower the risk of developing some cancers.
- Running reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke.
- Running also helps people avoid neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Running doesn’t require significant gear aside from a good pair of running shoes.
Kids and Running
Kids are often natural runners, as they tend to love outdoor activities. Children may be ready to start training for 5K races by the time they are around 10 years old. Older kids might enjoy running long distances on a cross-country team or shorter distances on a track team. Running can also be an excellent family activity.
- Kids may sleep better and have more self-esteem and confidence if they run regularly.
- Kids may also lower their risk for type 2 diabetes and cholesterol problems.
Other Cardio You Can Do at Home
Mixing up a workout schedule with a few different types of cardio exercises can be beneficial for overall health. Performing different cardiovascular exercises is also helpful for reducing the risk of injury.
- Try kickboxing with weighted gloves.
- Calisthenics such as jumping jacks, squat jumps, and burpees will effectively raise the heart rate.
- Even running up and down the stairs for several minutes can be ideal for raising your heart rate.
Virtual 5Ks and Running Events
A virtual 5K is a newer trend that involves runners signing up for a virtual race and then running it on their own. You choose your own starting line, run the distance, upload your finish time, and receive a medal or certificate in the mail.
- Virtual races enable you to participate on your own terms without battling crowds.
- Virtual races are also ideal for new runners to experiment with running different distances.
Additional Health and Running Resources
- How to Achieve a Runner’s High
- Exercise and Depression
- The Truth Behind Runner’s High and Other Mental Benefits of Running
- Endorphins and the Runner’s High
- How to Achieve the Ultimate Runner’s High
- Exercising to Relax
- Be Well: The Truth About Endorphins and Runner’s High
- Running Slows the Aging Clock
- Long-Distance Running: An Investigation Into its Impact on Human Health
- The Benefits of Running
- Sweat it Out: Exercise in Addiction Recovery
- Adding Exercise to Health Education Helps Treat Addiction
- Benefits of Children Being Active
- Aerobic Exercise: Top Ten Reasons to Get Physical
- HIIT vs. Continuous Cardiovascular Exercise
- Anaerobic vs. Aerobic Exercise: What’s the Difference?