Why Exercise Gets You High

exercise in heels

Τhe various benefits of cardiovascular exercise have been discussed extensively, from combating serious chronic diseases to getting a good night’s sleep. Cardio exercise is not only great for our physical health, but offers amazing health benefits as well. You may have heard of exercise and its ability to relieve mental concerns like stress, depression and anxiety, but even without these issues, it can make anyone feel happy. You may be familiar with the term “runner’s high” where a runner gets a feeling of euphoria after a while. This is not only true, but can be attainable for all. Learn about some of the ways running alters your endorphins, which can ultimately lead to feelings of true happiness.

Endorphins: The link between exercise and happiness

Many people hear and use the term endorphins without really knowing what they are and how they function in the body. These are basically our “feel good” chemicals and they are often released during exercise, which can lead to an instant surge in our moods. The chemistry of the endorphin, itself, is similar to a hormone. When it is released, it is like a natural pain killer and leads to an overall feeling of comfort. In addition to numbing the pain, endorphins also work to reduce the levels of cortisol, which is known as the stress hormone. Happiness is achieved as the absence or lowering of stress and anxiety is beneficial for our mental health. This is a great way to battle other mental health conditions, such as depression as well. Endorphins can be released during any moment where you find something or someone pleasurable. This can be having a conversation with a good friend or eating a delicious meal. Everyone’s endorphins are triggered at different points for different reasons, but to intentionally reach this place, running is a great way to get there.

Run to find Happiness!

There are many different forms of exercise that can have a mood-boosting effect; however, cardiovascular types appear to work the best. Some examples, aside from running include cycling, swimming and various sports. Two of the components that can affect the amount of endorphins released are duration and intensity and for this reason, strenuous running is the perfect workout. Because endorphins can be released after periods of stress, it is a good idea to work at a strenuous level where you are pushing yourself. Once you break past this point, you will be more likely to experience the famous “runner’s high.”

During this runner’s high experience, runners tend to feel a sense of euphoria and motivation. This obviously keeps them going, allowing them to get a longer and more effective workout. This burst of energy does not only last during the run, but after as well, so it can be a perfect way to start a busy day. Keep in mind that if you jump right into a long run without previous experience, you may not necessarily achieve this level. This is because people who are more physically fit tend to be able to enter this zone easier. For this reason, those who run on a regular basis will be most likely to achieve this level of endorphin release.

What the Research Says

While it is pretty sound knowledge that aerobic workouts like running can allow for this endorphin release, recent studies have shown that anaerobic exercise may be the best for this effect. In this state, your muscles are exhausted and have run out of oxygen and this is when the “runner’s high” effect can take place according to this research. This does not necessarily contradict the primary idea that aerobic exercise can produce endorphins. Rather, it further specifies that at the cross between aerobic and anaerobic is where the endorphin release occurs. A study from the University of Richmond further supports the fact that cardiovascular forms of exercise, in general, are the best kind for endorphin release. When compared to those who did a weight training regimen, cardio exercisers were able to release more endorphins. The idea here is that a moderate to high strenuous workout that is done over a consistent period of time is the best way to free up some of those feel-good chemicals.

Tips to Success

Remember that you will need to work pretty hard for duration of time to reach the pleasant feelings of endorphin release. Practice good form so to not fatigue your body before you have the opportunity to get to this point. In order to make sure you can maintain the workout for a good period of time, you will also want to remain hydrated and complete a warm-up and stretch routine before the workout begins.

Overdoing it may lead to addiction

Because the “high” from running can feel so great, it can also become addicting. You may want to consider this and ensure that you are remaining healthy at all times. Some of the common signs that someone may actually be addicted to exercise is if they feel that they must work out regardless of physical limitations (illness or injury) or if they feel withdrawal signs when their level of activity is decreased. It is definitely under-reported, but it can be a serious issue for some. Running is great as a stress reliever and may be just what you need to begin or end a stressful day. Just remember that overuse of any muscle or activity can lead to injury, so seek that endorphin release in other ways if possible in addition to your running routine.


Overall, running and exercise in general, is a great way to see health benefits all around from your physical to your mental wellbeing. In a fast-paced world, it is nice to be able to do something that feels good for yourself, so attaining happiness and feelings of joy while doing something healthy for your body is a win-win. So next time you are feeling like you need a pick-me-up, go for a run to get some of those endorphins flowing.

Elena is a qualified personal trainer and nutrition specialist. She is the editor of the YourLifeTube.com, where she shares her expertise on health related issues in an easy to understand manner.


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