Tag Archive: runner’s high

  1. What Are the Benefits of Endorphins?

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    Endorphins may play a key role in addiction but evidence is not always specific about how it works or whether it helps much at all. Endorphins are chemicals produced in the body to help diminish pain while triggering positive feelings. Sometimes referred to as the brain’s ‘feel good’ chemicals, it is a natural painkiller. Learn more about potential benefits of endorphins.


    The body will produce endorphins in response to intense physical exercise. Endorphins play a role in ‘runner’s high. The feelings of euphoria long distance runners experience after prolonged bouts of exercise helps to fuel a better run. Release of endorphins varies from each person to another which means the same amount of exercise does not produce the same amount of endorphins for every person. Research suggests exercise helps improve mood and may aid in depression treatment so exercise makes sense to help kick up the ‘feel good’ attributes.


    Endorphins play a role in the brain’s reward system. Some scientists and doctors have suggested ‘feel good’ chemicals play a role in exercise addiction or drug dependence. Exercise addiction may occur in people who exercise excessively. It is characterized by symptoms of withdrawal, feeling depressed, anxious or restless after not exercising. The same is true of other substances as well. Endorphins a play a major role in addiction in fueling the desire to continue drinking, using drugs or having promiscuous sex as the brain chemicals flood the body and create cravings for the substance. Increased levels of endorphins have been linked to vigorous exercise but also to dependence or addiction, with some negative but some positive benefits.

    Pain Relief

    One of endorphins’ main functions is to moderate pain. A part of the brain called the hypothalamus sets off a chain of events which increases production of endorphins. This higher level of endorphins helps individuals deal more effectively with chronic pain management. People with high levels of endorphins following surgery have a better response to the pain.


    Laughter provides an easy way to enjoy life and forget about stress. The body releases endorphins when a person laughs and makes the experience enjoyable. Even expecting to laugh can increase levels of endorphins in the body. During a study published in 2006, endorphins were highest in individuals to expected to laugh than people who did not. Stress can be reduced and mood can become elevated when a person is able to laugh or anticipate laughter as a benefit of the feel good chemicals flooding the system.

    Overall, endorphins provide a gateway to some important health benefits but also come with risks when involved with addictions. The power of the brain’s chemicals in the body should not be underestimated but it is important to realize the benefits are greater often than the challenges, which can be overcome with the right support network and system in place to guide an individual through recovery and thus to enjoy the benefits of the positive side effects of endorphins, and life itself.

    Call Sustain Recovery to find out more about our adolescent care programs. We are here to support your journey to recovery with our individualized programs and services.

  2. Endorphins and the Secret of Runner’s High

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    enorphins and the runner's highSedentary people often have a hard time understanding how intense physical activity can make them feel good. They see runners and other physically active people wincing, gasping for air, and walking slowly and painfully after an exercise session. They cannot answer the question, however, of why those physically active people return time and again to activities that look painful and uncomfortable to the sedentary observer. The answer is that intense physical activity can bring about a euphoric sensation known as “the runner’s high”.

    What are Endorphins?

    For many years, researchers have connected the runner’s high to increased endorphin levels that they saw in the bloodstreams of individuals who participated in high-intensity activities. Endorphins are natural painkillers that are released when a body experiences stress or pain. They are also released to reinforce enjoyable events, such as a good meal or sexual activity. Endorphins share certain chemical structures with morphine, and in some ways they create a similar effect. Yet recent research has revealed that endorphins in themselves are not entirely responsible for the runner’s high.

    Endorphin molecules are large and complex, and as such they do not pass easily between the blood-brain barrier. Individuals who do exercise have been found to have increased levels of another neurotransmitter, anandamide, in their brains, and that anandamide seems to lead to higher endorphin levels in their bloodstreams. Anandamide is a form of a cannabinoid that has a similar structure to the effective compound in marijuana. This does not suggest that exercising creates the same kind of high that can result from smoking a marijuana cigarette, but a body’s natural chemical reaction to exercise and the pleasurable sensations realized as a result of that exercise is such that the same pleasure centers and receptors are involved.

    The Secret of the Runner’s High

    The secret behind a runner’s high may very well involve a number of different factors. In addition to causing the release of endorphins, anandamides, and other feel-good neurotransmitters, exercising floods a person’s body with energy-inducing norepinephrine. Regular exercise helps a person to lose weight and to look and feel better, leading to improved energy levels and higher self-esteem. Individuals who exercise regularly can (at least in the eyes of sedentary individuals) have insufferable levels of energy and is coupled with bragging about various athletic feats. A distance runner can gasp through a race and walk gingerly for several hours or days after a race, but even before the pain subsides he is planning his next run to chase after the runner’s high. Science might not fully understand it, but regular runners vouch for the reality of what they experience.

    People who are dealing with depression or anxiety, or who are trying to break a drug addiction or alcoholism habit, might find that running or other vigorous exercise are the perfect tool to aid in their struggles. Because vigorous physical exercise can put a sudden strain on a sedentary person’s heart, he or she should not jump into a running program or other exercise regime without first consulting with a physician. Weeks or months can elapse before the first inkling of a runner’s high makes its appearance, but once it does appear, a person can get hooked on an active and healthy lifestyle.  


    For suggestions and more information on starting a running or exercise program,, please call Sustain Recovery Services at (949) 407-9052. Our staff can direct you to pursue the best path to start your own quest for the runner’s high.

I first met Sayeh in November of 2013 just after my 15 year old daughter had been admitted to a residential treatment program. As part of the program I was required to attend 2-3 AlAnon meetings a week. Sayeh attended the same AlAnon meetings as well as Alumni events as I. It soon became apparent to me that Sayeh had a heart for recovery, program, and God. When I was encouraged to get a sponsor I didn’t hesitate. Dependable, respectful, kind and generous of spirit, she exudes an inner peace that I hope to achieve with her loving guidance, as I work my own program. She is patient, & full of wisdom that she is always happy to share with her sponsees and fellow parents. I am so grateful our journeys brought us together.

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