Unveiling the Origin of Runner’s High

Unveiling the Origin of Runner’s High

Every avid runner or fitness enthusiast is familiar with that distinct sensation at the onset of their exercise routine. Perhaps you rose early to hit the track before sunrise, embarking on a run that initially feels burdensome with labored breathing and preemptive knee discomfort. Nevertheless, you persist, determined to complete the ambitious 10-mile goal set for the day.

Somewhere along this journey, a transformative occurrence takes place. Your lungs expand, breathing becomes effortless, pain diminishes, and a surge of energy propels you forward, as if conquering Mount Everest were within your grasp.

This exhilarating phenomenon is commonly referred to as the runner's high. Initially attributed to endorphin release, recent research challenges this explanation. In this article, we explore the runner's high, seeking to comprehend its nature and discover methods to expedite its onset during exercise.

Body's Response to Intense Physical Activity

The runner’s high is a state of both physical and mental euphoria experienced by some individuals after engaging in vigorous exercise. It manifests as a sensation of floating or a surge of motivation to extend training sessions, achievable through various exercises like running, high-intensity interval training, and aerobic activities.

During periods of rest or relaxation, the parasympathetic nervous system maintains a balanced state for breathing, heart rate, and metabolism. However, intense physical activity triggers the sympathetic response, increasing heart rate, expanding airways, and releasing adrenaline to cope with heightened stress.

After prolonged intense exercise, the body activates the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Comprising neurotransmitters, receptors, and enzymes, the ECS regulates processes such as mood and pain sensation. Activating the ECS during exercise reduces pain perception, induces feelings of ecstasy, and enhances the overall workout experience.

The Science Behind the Elusive Runner’s High

Decades of inquiry into the runner's high led to the formulation of the Opioid Theory in 2008, attributing the phenomenon to the release of endorphins during intense workouts. However, subsequent research debunked this theory, revealing that endorphins, being large molecules, cannot cross the blood-brain barrier.

Seven years later, studies on mice provided evidence supporting the role of the endocannabinoid system in the runner's high. Anandamide, released during prolonged rigorous exercise, enters the central nervous system, limiting pain sensors, triggering dopamine release, and binding to cannabinoid receptors. This interaction results in the euphoria associated with the runner's high.


What Is the Endocannabinoid System?

The ECS, the body's extensive biological receptor system, regulates various functions, including sleep, inflammation, mood, and pain. Operating on a lock-and-key model, cannabinoids act as keys, fitting into receptors to produce physiological effects.

Anandamide, the endocannabinoid responsible for the runner's high, acts as the key, binding to CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 regulates appetite, memory, and pain in the brain and spinal column, while CB2 controls inflammation in the immune system.

The release of anandamide into the bloodstream and brain, interacting with CB1 and CB2 receptors, leads to reduced inflammation, diminished pain, and enhanced endurance.

Phytocannabinoids, found in plants like THC and CBD, mimic endocannabinoids' structure and behavior. They activate the ECS, producing a similar euphoric feeling when consumed, potentially aiding muscle recovery after intense exercise.

Significance of the Runner’s High

Beyond the transient bliss it provides, the runner's high contributes to:

  1. Consistent exercise routines: The euphoria encourages more frequent workouts.
  2. Improved sleep quality: Neurotransmitters released during a runner’s high reduce stress, promote relaxation, and enhance sleep.
  3. Elevated mood: Euphoria reduces daily stress and worry.
  4. Pain relief: Chemicals released temporarily alleviate pain and discomfort.
  5. Higher productivity: Some individuals report improved focus, mental clarity, and energy following a runner's high, potentially enhancing cognitive function and productivity.

How to Induce the Runner’s High

Experiencing the runner's high involves engaging in rigorous workouts such as aerobic exercises or extended running, with some studies recommending a 30-minute run at 70%-80% maximal heart rate. Despite these efforts, the runner's high remains elusive for many. Taking microdoses of phytocannabinoids, such as THC, may expedite the process and ensure the experiential effects.

Microdosing THC, whether through edibles, supplements, or specialized blends like ORCA supplements, can enhance the workout experience, making it more enjoyable and less painful while boosting endurance.

In conclusion, understanding the runner's high goes beyond mere curiosity, as it holds potential benefits for long-term health, mental well-being, and overall quality of life. Until next time, happy running, and take care of your mind!

FDA Disclaimer: The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from health care practitioners. Please consult your healthcare professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires this notice.

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