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What causes runner's high?

The classic runner's high—the state of euphoria associated with prolonged exercise—is no longer explained solely by the adrenaline and endorphin hypothesis. Scientists now believe that the physical and psychological well-being (plus reduced anxiety, time distortion, and enhanced sensory perception) experienced by many endurance athletes is due to the exercise induced activation of cannabinoids—lipids, in fact, in the body whose actions resemble those of the active ingredients of cannabis (marijuana). These cannabinoids can suppress pain at peripheral sites as well as centrally (crossing the blood-brain barrier); they inhibit swelling and inflammation; and dilate blood vessels and make breathing easier. The phenomenon of exercise addiction is largely due to these powerful chemicals naturally produced in the body.

From The Mind-Beauty Connection: 9 Days to Less Stress, Gorgeous Skin, and a Whole New You by Amy Wechsler.

Exercise has been shown to decrease resting heart rate, reduce blood pressure, reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, all of which help to decrease the physiological causes of stress in the body. Exercise has also been shown to release endorphins and catecholamines, which are “feel good” hormones that also reduce stress and increase feelings of well-being.  Many experts believe the release of these hormones is responsible for a runner’s high.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.