The term “runner’s high” is often used to describe the feel-good factor many endurance runners experience, but is there really such a thing or is it simply a myth perpetuated by runners to justify their “addiction” to endurance exercise?
What the Scientists Say
Scientific research has revealed that running and other forms of rhythmic aerobic exercise can indeed lead to the release of addictive feel-good chemicals in the body and it’s now believed that this response to prolonged bouts of exercise may be evolutionary.
Survival of the Fittest
David Raichlen, an anthropologist at the University of Arizona, believes it may be the natural release of these feel-good chemicals that allowed humans to evolve into endurance runners. Without the ability to run continuously over long distances, our early ancestors would not have been equipped to hunt and chase down essential food sources such as antelope, jeopardizing the very survival of the human race as a result.
Better Than Drugs
The feel-good chemicals released in the body are cannabinoids, making them the same as the chemicals present in marijuana. However, the runner’s high is totally legal and the exercise responsible for producing it brings with it the added benefits of improved physical and mental well being.
The Key to Enduring Health
Being able to outrun an antelope is no longer necessary for survival but there can be no denying that staying active and improving our overall fitness holds the key to enjoying a long and healthy life. However, for those who become “addicted” to the runner’s high it’s worth remembering the wise old saying – too much of a good thing can make a good thing bad.