Author Topic: Endorphins and runner's high  (Read 3864 times)

Offline Colin

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Endorphins and runner's high
« on: May 16, 2010, 08:50:05 AM »
I definitely experience runner's high. I don't get it all the time, but mainly on my longer runs. I had always understood this is related to endorphin production, but it wasn't clear to me why this occurs or what factors bring it on.

The post on the opponent process theory made me think about this some more. According to Wikipedia

The term "endorphin rush" has been adopted in popular speech to refer to feelings of exhilaration brought on by pain, danger, or other forms of stress, supposedly due to the influence of endorphins. When a nerve impulse reaches the spinal cord, endorphins are released which prevent nerve cells from releasing more pain signals. Immediately after injury, endorphins allow animals to feel a sense of power and control over themselves that allows them to persist with activity for an extended time.

...Another widely publicized effect of endorphin production is the so-called "runner's high", which is said to occur when strenuous exercise takes a person over a threshold that activates endorphin production. Endorphins are released during long, continuous workouts, when the level of intensity is between moderate and high, and breathing is difficult. This also corresponds with the time that muscles use up their stored glycogen. During a release of endorphins the person may be exposed to bodily harm from strenuous bodily functions after going past their body's physical limit. This means that runners can keep running despite pain, continuously surpassing what they once considered to be their limit. Workouts that are most likely to produce endorphins to the extent of damage at the body's physical limit include sports and other strenuous exercises.

So according to Wikipedia, the endorphins are produced as a natural way of dealing with pain, and the pain needs to exceed some threshold level. That matches what you would predict from the opponent process theory.  What the Wikipedia article does not mention is that the endorphin high can last for many hours after you finish your run or exercise, so it outlasts the initial "pain" of running. 

Maybe this is true also with other forms of pain or unpleasantness leading to a release of endorphins.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2010, 08:52:30 AM by Runner »

Offline Moonbeam

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Re: Endorphins and runner's high
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2010, 06:53:33 PM »
I have never experienced that.  I hope I can someday.

Offline Doodlebug

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Re: Endorphins and runner's high
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2010, 09:07:22 PM »
I'm not much of a runner, so I don't know about runner's high. But I like to do fairly intense weightlifting workouts, and I definitely get a pleasant endorphin-like feeling after a serious workout. For a few hours I feel weak and played out, but at the same time my whole body feels great with a relaxed kind of energy. Perhaps not exactly the same thing as runner's high, but I think it is along the same principle of something brief and definitely uncomfortable leading to a sustained pleasure.  If I go more than 3 or 4 days without a workout, I feel a bit out of sorts and edgy and start to crave another workout.

Offline aelephant

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Re: Endorphins and runner's high
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2011, 04:34:39 PM »
Missed this thread originally, but thought I'd chime in. I'm not sure if it is the same as the runner's high, but I have had bouts of what I can only describe as euphoria after particularly intense weight lifting sessions. Usually these are more "circuit" type sessions with little rest between exercises, supersets, etc. In the shower when I'm done, as soon as the water hits my skin I am covered in "gooseflesh", the hairs at the base of my neck stand up and I just bask in intense feelings of warmth and comfort.