Photo doctored from Nikerunning.com
Traditionally, the ‘runners high’ has been attributed to endorphins – the neurochemical that acts as a really good ‘painkiller.’
Often cited in research, it’s a rather feeble attempt to explain away the elated feeling that runners get. Surely, the weeping and overwhelming tears of joy that marathoners can testify to upon completion of 26.2 miles must be caused by something more? And this is not about simply increasing levels of serotonin which in turn leads to spikes in our dopamine levels (Granted this can play a given role).
Enter a newly published study from the University of Arizona which finally sheds some light on the matter: Endocannabinoids. Yes, the terminology is no coincidence. This is the very substance which is produced from within the body when running and can activate cannabinoid receptors. This is to be differentiated of course form synthetic cannabinoids (which have distinct chemical classes, one being related to THC). Endocannabinoids on the other hand, are chemicals that like cannabis, can alter and lighten moods – only 100% naturally.