You know how we all cherish running for it’s awesome ability to kick the body into producing more bliss-inducing endorphins – your brain’s naturally occurring opiates?
This aerobic activity can clear your mind, get you all happy and shiny and even combat depression in the long run so no wonder its positive effect is being called “the runner’s high” in some circles – as it turns out, that name suits it more than perfectly.
According to a brand new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the real contributor to this sought-after state of joy might be the enhanced release of the chemicals called endocannabinoids – a naturally synthesized version of cannabinoids, the active ingredients found in marijuana.
As you may know, the reason why cannabis medications work so efficiently is because our bodies are equipped with an endocannabinoid system, which includes a group of receptors that are configured only to accept cannabinoids.
More precisely, the endocannabinoid system is a group of specialized lipids, their receptors and the enzymes that produce and degrade them. It’s significantly involved in the regulation of appetite, pain, inflammation, intraocular pressure, energy balance, metabolism, sleep, stress responses, mood and memory, all of which makes it vital for the normal functioning of the organism.
While endorphins can be created only by specialized neurons in the brain, any cell in the body has the ability to make endocannabionids, which gives them a potential to make a greater impact on the brain. That being said, endocannabinoid production increases in response to mental stress as opposed to physical pain, which is the main activator of the release of endorphins.
Mostly because of their vasodilative properties, an adequate amount of endocannabinoids in your body can be pretty efficient at balancing your mood and keeping discomfort away, but when they’re blocked or depleted you might experience anxiety, irritability and fatigue.
In the aforementioned study, scientists from the University of Heidelberg placed mice on running wheels and found out that they were a lot less anxious after the activity. On the other hand, when they intentionally blocked their endocannabinoid system, the exercise wasn’t followed by the same beneficial effects.
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These and other similar findings partially diminish the importance of endorphins and position endocannabinoids as more heavily involved in creating the “runner’s high” you most probably experience during or after your running sessions. So, in other words, running (and other types of intensive training, as a matter of fact) can give you an all-natural high without having to consume any substances – now how cool is that?