Runner's high

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Runners can experience a euphoric state often called a "runner's high".

The runner's high is a transient state of euphoria coupled with lessened feelings of anxiety and a higher pain threshold, which can come either from continuous moderate physical exertion over time or from short bursts of high-intensity exercise. The exact prevalence is unknown, but it seems to be a relatively rare phenomenon that not every athlete experiences.[1] The name comes from distance running, and it is alternatively called "rower's high" in rowing.[2][3][4][5]

Mechanism of action[edit]

Current medical reviews indicate that several endogenous euphoriants are responsible for producing exercise-related pleasurable feelings, specifically phenethylamine (an endogenous psychostimulant), β-endorphin (an endogenous opioid), and anandamide (an endogenous cannabinoid).[6][7][8][9][10] However, more recent studies suggest that endorphins have a limited role in the feelings of euphoria specifically related to the runner's high due to their inability to cross the blood-brain barrier, placing more importance in the endocannabinoids instead, which can cross this barrier.[1][4][11][12]


  1. ^ a b Nogrady, Bianca (8 April 2023). "Chasing the runner's high: the elusive buzz scientists are still figuring out". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 April 2024.
  2. ^ Cunha GS, Ribeiro JL, Oliveira AR (June 2008). "[Levels of beta-endorphin in response to exercise and overtraining]". Arq Bras Endocrinol Metabol (in Portuguese). 52 (4): 589–598. doi:10.1590/S0004-27302008000400004. hdl:10183/40053. PMID 18604371.
  3. ^ Boecker H, Sprenger T, Spilker ME, Henriksen G, Koppenhoefer M, Wagner KJ, Valet M, Berthele A, Tolle TR (2008). "The runner's high: opioidergic mechanisms in the human brain". Cereb. Cortex. 18 (11): 2523–2531. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhn013. PMID 18296435. The runner's high describes an euphoric state resulting from long-distance running.
  4. ^ a b Raichlen DA, Foster AD, Gerdeman GL, Seillier A, Giuffrida A (2012). "Wired to run: exercise-induced endocannabinoid signaling in humans and cursorial mammals with implications for the 'runner's high'". J. Exp. Biol. 215 (Pt 8): 1331–1336. doi:10.1242/jeb.063677. PMID 22442371. S2CID 5129200.
  5. ^ Cohen EE, Ejsmond-Frey R, Knight N, Dunbar RI (2010). "Rowers' high: behavioural synchrony is correlated with elevated pain thresholds". Biol. Lett. 6 (1): 106–108. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2009.0670. PMC 2817271. PMID 19755532.
  6. ^ Szabo A, Billett E, Turner J (2001). "Phenylethylamine, a possible link to the antidepressant effects of exercise?". Br J Sports Med. 35 (5): 342–343. doi:10.1136/bjsm.35.5.342. PMC 1724404. PMID 11579070.
  7. ^ Lindemann L, Hoener MC (2005). "A renaissance in trace amines inspired by a novel GPCR family". Trends Pharmacol. Sci. 26 (5): 274–281. doi:10.1016/ PMID 15860375.
  8. ^ Berry MD (2007). "The potential of trace amines and their receptors for treating neurological and psychiatric diseases". Rev Recent Clin Trials. 2 (1): 3–19. CiteSeerX doi:10.2174/157488707779318107. PMID 18473983.
  9. ^ Dinas PC, Koutedakis Y, Flouris AD (2011). "Effects of exercise and physical activity on depression". Ir J Med Sci. 180 (2): 319–325. doi:10.1007/s11845-010-0633-9. PMID 21076975. S2CID 40951545.
  10. ^ Tantimonaco M, Ceci R, Sabatini S, Catani MV, Rossi A, Gasperi V, Maccarrone M (2014). "Physical activity and the endocannabinoid system: an overview". Cell. Mol. Life Sci. 71 (14): 2681–2698. doi:10.1007/s00018-014-1575-6. PMID 24526057. S2CID 14531019.
  11. ^ Fuss, Johannes; Steinle, Jörg; Bindila, Laura; Auer, Matthias K.; Kirchherr, Hartmut; Lutz, Beat; Gass, Peter (20 October 2015). "A runner's high depends on cannabinoid receptors in mice". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 112 (42): 13105–13108. doi:10.1073/pnas.1514996112. PMC 4620874. Retrieved 12 April 2024.
  12. ^ Desai, Shreya; Borg, Breanna; Cuttler, Carrie; Crombie, Kevin M.; Rabinak, Christine A.; Hill, Matthew N.; Marusak, Hilary A. (1 August 2022). "A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis on the Effects of Exercise on the Endocannabinoid System". Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. 7 (4): 388–408. doi:10.1089/can.2021.0113. ISSN 2578-5125. PMC 9418357.