Runner’s High Looks A Lot Like Smoking Weed To Your Brain
Science & Tech / /
If you are one of those who find it difficult to start exercising, the results from a recent study may encourage you. The perk of the intense exercise actually lies in runner’s high—a feeling of relaxed euphoria after an intense workout—and is the reason you should see exercising from a whole other perspective.
In the recent study scientists have discovered that runner’s high happens because exercise makes body produce a particular neurotransmitter that relaxes the body—the same one trigged by smoking marijuana.
Scientists believed that the good feeling after exercising was a result of released endorphin, hormone that triggers the brain’s reward system and blocks pain. But in the recent study, as Popular Science reports, researchers realized that endorphin doesn’t cross the blood-brain barrier, so it wasn’t the reason causing the runner’s high.
The neurotransmitter which is increased by exercising is the body’s chemicals called anandamide, also known as the “bliss” molecule. As it crosses the blood-brain barrier, it activates neurons’ cannabinoid receptors—the same ones activated when chemicals from marijuana are in the blood stream.
The study was based on 32 mice that were trained to run on a wheel for three days. Then they were split in two groups; half of them were running for 5 hours per day, while the others were not running at all. The results showed that the mice that had been running were less sensitive to pain when put on a hot plate and responded with less anxiety to stress tests.
The same tests were then performed on other two groups of mice: one group was given drugs to block only endorphins, while the other was given drugs that block only endocannabinoids, such as anandamide. The first group, which could still produce anandamide, had in much the results as the mice that had been exercising--less stress and sensitivity to pain compared to the group that had the anandamide blocked.
From the obtained data researchers concluded that these results indicate that cannabinoids are the chemical causing the runner’s high, in addition to the one associated with smoking marijuana. Unfortunately, it was not determine wether the mice felt euphoria because “euphoria is a highly subjective feeling that may be difficult to model in mice,” the study authors wrote. The practical value of this study is to help develop new treatments for chronic pain or anxiety conditions and convince us, reluctant that exercise has benefits beyond physical health.