You may have experienced it before. That feeling of complete calm and euphoria after going on a nice, long run and pushing your body to the limit. Whether on a nature trail, on a treadmill, or simply around your suburb, running is one of the best ways to exercise.
Along with improving their fitness and helping their body reach its peak performance, many runners speak of the “runners’ high” they experience either while running or as soon as they stop. This high gives a sudden period of clarity in thinking, an additional energy boost, and an undeniably happier or calmer feeling.
While running is the number one way to get this high, many people don’t have the time to go on a long run or simply aren’t comfortable doing so. How, then, can they experience this fabled runners’ high?
This article will look at activities that can replicate the runners’ high and leave you feeling like you’ve just finished a marathon. So, let’s run right on ahead.
What Is a Runners’ High?
As mentioned above, a runner’s high is a moment during or after running that leaves your body calm and your mind clear. Above all else, it gives you a brief feeling of euphoria due to the release of chemicals in your body as you test your limits while running.
Two main chemicals are responsible for this natural high. The first is endorphins—which are released while you are running. Endorphins are commonly known as the happy chemical that generates the feeling of joy and relaxation in our bodies.
These endorphins help reduce pain and stress and are used by your body to balance things out when it detects that you’re stressing too much or are in pain (which, if you haven’t run for a while, could be the case). These are released as your blood pumps harder and your breathing increases while running.
The second (and more widely accepted) chemical that the runners high is attributed to is actually not just one chemical but rather a series of chemicals called endocannabinoids. Named after the controversial cannabis plant, these chemicals give you a similar feeling as a cannabis high, but with only the feeling of euphoria.
However, unlike cannabis, which needs to be ingested in one form or another, endocannabinoids are naturally produced by your body. They are usually released during activities like running and certain types of exercise, but there are other ways to stimulate the production of these chemicals and achieve a runner’s high.
One way to achieve a runner’s high without the physical exertion of running is by doing various relaxing or therapeutic activities. These also result in the production of endocannabinoids and can leave you in the same euphoric state as a long run.
Yoga and meditation are among the most commonly accepted ways to increase endocannabinoid levels.
Due to how calming and physical yoga activity is, the body naturally begins to increase chemical levels and combat stress. This leads to a greater feeling of peace, calm, and relaxation – leading to the same feelings as a runner’s high.
Using yoga and meditation to achieve this high is most effective when these activities are incorporated with breathing activities. This helps regulate the oxygen flow to your body by increasing the supply and allowing more oxygen to reach your brain, which also occurs during running.
In 2009, a study revealed that acupuncture (more specifically, electroacupuncture) could cause your body to release higher levels of endocannabinoids and endorphins – known to contribute to a runner’s high.
This is because acupuncture triggers specific parts of the central nervous system and stimulates the production of these chemicals in your body. Along with these chemicals comes the feeling of bliss and euphoria.
Alongside relaxing activities, studies have shown that any activity that gets your heart pumping can also help induce a runner’s high. This is because of the accelerated supply of oxygenated blood to your body and a feeling of excitement.
It should be noted that the study distinguishes between activities that get your heart racing due to enjoyment or excitement and those that release adrenaline. In fact, adrenaline has been found to inhibit the production of endocannabinoids – so things like a roller coaster won’t help achieve a runner’s high, even if it does get your heart pumping.
Some activities that can get your heart racing the right way are listed below.
While running technically falls under this category, a runner’s high has been seen to be triggered through various other exercise methods and outdoor activities. These activities usually include a degree of physical activity that promotes endocannabinoid production.
Alongside the physical activity of these pursuits, being outdoors and in nature has also been linked to the release of endorphins. This contributes to the feeling of joy and can lead to an induced runner’s high.
Another way to get a slight taste of that high is by doing something entertaining that takes your mind off any stress you may be experiencing.
This could be watching an exciting TV show, trying your luck on the Vegas Strip or on one of the online casinos found at casinosource.ca, or seeing your favourite musical artist perform live. If even for a moment you feel like you’re being overtaken by an undeniably positive mood, chances are you’re stepping into the territory of a runner’s high.
Any activities that entertain and bring you a feeling of joy release endorphins in your brain and stimulate endocannabinoid production. These could lead to a mild runner’s high without you ever having to engage in strenuous activity or exercise.
However, it should be noted that while these methods can lead to a feeling of joy and euphoria, the “high” will not be as strong as it would be should you be engaged in physical activity. When you physically and mentally push your body, the rewards come twofold.