Why Does Exercise Make People Happy?
If you’ve ever worked the frustration of a bad day at the office on the treadmill, you must know working up a real sweat is enough to turn your bad day around.
People nowadays don’t just head to the nearest park to jog a mile because they wish to lose weight, but because of the post-workout bliss that comes after it.
Endorphins or the ‘happy chemical’ are considered to be the magic bullet behind that post-workout bliss that many endorphin junkies crave; but turns out, the chemical is getting all the credit when a lot more goes on behind the scenes.
Chasing the Runner’s High
People experience an endorphin rush after exercise. This belief and idea was discovered 40 years ago by a group of scientists at the University of Aberdeen.
At around the same time (roughly mid-1970s), long-distance running was growing in popularity as well. Reports of the so-called “runner’s high” was unearthed, where researchers found out the reason for the intense and euphoric feeling after exercise is pain suppression. But was that the case, in reality?
The Blood-Brain Disconnect
Research shows an increase in blood plasma endorphin levels in direct response to pain and stressors. As an example, consider this 2003 study that found a higher likelihood of blood plasma endorphin levels in the body; the more severe pain is experienced in post-surgery.
Research indicates exercise has more or less a similar effect but again, endorphin levels might actually not increase until an hour or so after you’ve started working out. This doesn’t explain why we feel awesome after doing 30 minutes of HIIT sessions!
Another German study suggests high endorphin levels that we experience after a run can’t pass through the blood-brain barrier meaning an exercise high or rush has nothing do with this phenomena.
So, what affects the brain, leading to that sense of exhilaration that comes from exercise? Anandamide, a neurotransmitter is responsible for this as elevated levels can travel to the brain from our blood.
So, You Aren’t Really an Endorphin Junkie
“You might be a serotonin junkie or even a norepinephrine junkie”, says Tasha Norman, CEO, and founder of FitEngine. This is also why people who exercise regularly or stay active have a much better chance of reducing depression and stress. In fact, it actually helps to ward off anxiety and improves a person’s ability to think during stressful situations.
This is all the reason more to take up a Pilates or Vinyasa Yoga class today!