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Why does running make people feel better?

  1. Nov 30, 2004 #1
    Why does it do this? I read that endorphins are released in the brain, these are opium like chemicals that give a sense of pleasure, and after prolonged physical exertion of some sort they are released in large doses, why does that happen? Not just directly after or during exercise but hours later it is still a bit there and I'm wondering if anyone knows why or how this works. :tongue2:
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 1, 2004 #2
    Assuming, perhaps, they you are being chased by a predator.. the likelihood of you being injured are quite high, the need for you to keep running without the associated tiredness fatigue are also high..

    That's where endorphins come in, they allow to you supress the pain and keep on running or hide (rest), and still be able to run within a short period of time.
     
  4. Dec 2, 2004 #3
    Jikx is right on the money. Endorphins cause a euphoric effect after your body calms down from a jog or run. It's very similar to the usage of marijuana, but not as intense.
     
  5. Dec 2, 2004 #4

    PerennialII

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    So why don't endorphins get released just during a tough run (if their idea is to make running somehow easier) ? I seem to be getting an overdose of lactic acid every time and could use some during rather than after ....
     
  6. Dec 2, 2004 #5

    Monique

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    PerennialII, if your muscles go sour because of lactic acid, you probably need to give more attention to your warm-up! When you warm-up properly before an excersize, your muscles will have a better supply of blood and thus oxygen. A good warming-down is important too, so that the lactic acid has a chance to get out of the muscle and be broken down.

    I think that jogging makes you feel so much better, since you get a good cardiovascular work-out: more blood is reaching your brain and general organs. This is what's making you more fit.
     
  7. Dec 2, 2004 #6

    PerennialII

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    I think I have a "bad habit" of pushing it a bit too much :biggrin: .
     
  8. Dec 2, 2004 #7
    Good move Kerrie, if it were up to me everything would be philosophy.

    "So why don't endorphins get released just during a tough run (if their idea is to make running somehow easier) ?"-PerrenialII
    I'll bet some do, I don't know for sure but it feels that way but mainly it's afterward, still that's a revealing question...I mean if it were a predator adrenaline would be the number 1 drug, why all the time delay with the opiates? You know what, pain is supposed to tell me when to stop doing something and yet in a life or death fleeing situation pain is going to hurt more than help...but with opiates released by the brain the feeling of pain can be lessened even changed and percieved as the opposite maybe...but how does the brain know what type situation and how much opiate chemicals to release?
     
  9. Dec 2, 2004 #8

    PerennialII

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    Yeah, I 2nd the theory that some do get released during a run, for example if you're really pushing the envelope during a run, but then in the midst of all that decrease your speed a bit, it quite often feels like you can get some of the same "high" as after a run (even if you then decide to hit the pedal again). I'm not quite sure how to differentiate numbning from all this ... the first few kms/miles are always the toughest after which the pain of it subsides quite a bit. Or the fact that muscles just start to work better after a while. But I don't really have anything to offer on how the brain "knows" what it's doing ... the "opiate rush" usually takes at least minutes of inactivity to develop so perhaps that is what triggers it, wouldn't mind having it during the ordeal.
     
  10. Dec 2, 2004 #9

    Moonbear

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    I don't really know a good answer to this; running has never made me feel better!

    That "numbing" sensation you describe would probably be due to the analgesic effects of the opioids. The comment that you don't really notice the "high" until after you stop or if you slow down is interesting. I'm thinking of...um...personal experience with alcohol. If I'm up and dancing and doing stuff, I don't even notice how much I've been drinking, but sit down for 5 min, even if I'm no longer drinking, and it hits all at once. You've prompted me to want to delve into the literature a bit more on this to see if there's something about exercise that would keep you from feeling the effects of drugs or alcohol.
     
  11. Dec 2, 2004 #10
    I don't think it feels good because you went for a run. I think you feel good because you've stopped running. I drive my truck to the little Mexican resturant next door, and it shares a wall with my building.
     
  12. Dec 2, 2004 #11

    loseyourname

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    I don't know the evolutionary justification for it, but the runner's high is definitely caused by endorphin release. I doubt it serves to keep us running from predators, because we already have the "fight-or-flight" response for that. The effect does have an analgesic aspect to it, but whether or not that is an intended effect is unknown.

    It should be noted that a researcher at the James H. Quillen College of Medicine is actually advocating exercise therapy as a relief for PMS, contending that the increased levels of endorphins found in the blood of those who exercise frequently can relieve symptoms. This may point to why the effect occurs: it could just be an added incentive to exercise. I can testify as a former cross-country runner that the associated "high" was definitely part of the reason I ran.
     
  13. Dec 2, 2004 #12

    Nereid

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    So what levels - and types - of exercise are necessary to get a definite high? Do swimmers get it (for example)? How about a vigourous day's bushwalking ('hiking')? Is there much variation between individuals? by age?
     
  14. Dec 2, 2004 #13

    loseyourname

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    You know, I'm not really sure. I'll see if I can find the study I looked at. I can tell you that I've gotten the same feeling from all of those activities. I would imagine there is some variation between individuals, just as there is some variation in pain thresholds and aerobic ability and other factors related to exercise.
     
  15. Dec 3, 2004 #14

    PerennialII

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    So essentially before a run I should pick up a few shots, sit down and then start running in order to get the maximum result with minimum effort ... there is actually quite a bit of similarity between these two phenomenon. I think it sounds reasonable that there is a sort of a lag in the analgesic effect when you start running, body responses after a while of constant pain trying to hammer to you to do something else. Interesting, wonder if you're working near your maximum heartrate would have an effect like that, wouldn't feel the effects different substances have.
     
  16. Dec 3, 2004 #15

    PerennialII

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    Yeah, the poor man's way of getting high is a big part of it for me as well.

    I think of it similarly as loseyourname did above, type of exercise as long as it has an endurance element in it and is as intensive as possible promotes the high. The "problem" of it is that as with related substances, you need ever more harder exercises to get the same rush, which once you start to be in shape makes it pretty dreadful.
     
  17. Dec 3, 2004 #16

    xck

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    jammieg

    i read recently that bungee jumping is helping some heroin addicts stay clean. maybe tying them to a treadmill at top speed going through withdrawal would be a good idea :devil:

    yes, methadone helps curb physical withdrawal. i never connected that it's the lack of endorphins that makes it so difficult to remain clean until the brain rearranges itself if ever.
     
  18. Dec 3, 2004 #17

    Moonbear

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    I'll share some ideas that are currently being discussed by some of the faculty here, but keep in mind, this is untested right now, and I don't want to go into experimental details because my colleagues are concerned about competitors scooping this work. So, I just want to shed some light on what some current thinking is, but this may turn out to be completely wrong as it's tested over the next year or so. It's based on both anectdotal reports and seemingly contradictory results of some experiments that are trying to be sorted out.

    There is some thinking that very positive rewards, particularly natural rewards (in this case, they have been addressing sexual behavior), may have a protective effect on drug addictions. In other words, someone who has another positive experience (reward) prior to trying drugs may not be as easily addicted as someone who is not getting these positive rewards. I hope I've explained that clearly. It seems to me that a runner's high may fall into this category of natural rewards. Drugs of abuse act through similar pathways as natural rewards, but something remains different that makes them truly addictive. There are people working on understanding these differences as well. If we can understand what is different between a reward induced by a natural behavior than a reward induced by a drug of abuse, we may find some insights to help us treat addiction.

    But, like I said, this is still untested, so don't take this as fact.
     
  19. Dec 3, 2004 #18

    xck

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    monkeys

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    If a monkey is given an opiate he too will nod won't he? Over time anyone will get hooked. Right? Cellibate or sexually active. I do know that cellibacy is an extremely powerful mode.

    I think the only way to combat it would be to address the issues that lead one to it. That would be impossible at this point in time on earth. I know I have detoured from the runner-endorphine high. oops.

    Many equate sexuality with "god" (the protective measure) so maybe that's why 12 step programs work? On second thought if that was the case NA would have a 100 % recovery rate and it doesn't. It is an interesting topic. :smile:
     
  20. Dec 3, 2004 #19

    xck

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    rightbrained

    MoonbeaR oops again.
     
  21. Dec 3, 2004 #20

    PerennialII

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    Got to say sounds pretty novel but irrespective of its correctness, a really interesting concept. Verifying something like this may be a tougher cookie than usual.
     
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