Although no one can really define what it is, or deduce if it really even exists, rest assured, researchers are hard at work to try and figure out exactly what could be the cause behind that euphoric feeling that some runners experience.
According to the New York Times, It turns out that endorphins, which we all normally attribute to the happy post-exercise feeling, are actually molecules that are too large to pass the “blood-brain barrier,” and thus, can’t explain runner’s high. Research then shifted to other sources, and zeroed in on the endocannibinoid system, which was previously found to stimulate the brain both after smoking marijuana, and when exercising vigorously for 50 minutes.
“They found that a widespread group of receptors, clustered in the brain but also found elsewhere in the body, allow the active ingredient in marijuana to bind to the nervous system and set off reactions that reduce pain and anxiety and produce a floaty, free-form sense of well-being. Even more intriguing, the researchers found that with the right stimuli, the body creates its own cannabinoids (the endocannabinoids). These cannabinoids are composed of molecules known as lipids, which are small enough to cross the blood-brain barrier, so cannabinoids found in the blood after exercise could be affecting the brain.”
Turns out science is fun. For the athlete, there is obvious logic here: Why ingest something potentially harmful to yourself, when you can go on a run and produce the same good feelings for free? And lose weight. And live longer. If you’re in Shanghai on business or leisure, running is a great way to stimulate your body, and avoid those pesky zero tolerance drug laws here in China. You’ll thank us later.