In their study, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists use lab mice to test the levels of Cannabinoids present in the blood stream after running sessions.
If you’re unsure what a runner’s high actually is – it’s described as a period of intense euphoria and decreased anxiety after running long distance, plus a noticeable body “buzz” that seems to numb the runners aching muscles. Some argue no such thing exists, but science may have just proved them wrong!
Previously, scientists thought that the runner’s high was attributed to increased endorphins related to opiates in the brain, however after this study was done, it was concluded that these endorphins are too large to pass into the brain through the bloodstream.
To test their theory, scientists conditioned mice to run on a treadmill.
- One group of mice ran on a treadmill for more than five hours, while the control group did nothing.
- After 5 hours the mice that ran were exposed to anxiety inducing tests as well as physical heat to test for pain tolerance.
- It was noticeable that the mice which ran the 5 hours reacted much more calmly to both set of tests, while the mice which did not run experienced a typical reaction to the stimulus.
- To determine which specific cannabinoid the mice were experiencing would be impossible, so instead the researchers BLOCKED the endocannabinoid receptors and ran the same test again. This time the mice did not experience the reduction of anxiety or pain.
These findings, the team reports, strongly suggest that runner’s high is very likely associated with cannabinoid receptors, though it may not be the whole story — they were not able to test another symptom often associating with runner’s high, euphoria, because of its subjective nature — it was not possible to ask the mice how they were feeling and get a measurable response.
This isn’t the first time researchers have discussed this possibility – the University of Arizona also did a study about endocannabinoid levels in runners.
Dogs and humans love to run because it gives them a natural high similar to that of cannabis, according to the University of Arizona.
Researchers wanted to see why some animals evolved to be better at running, such as humans and dogs, while others, including ferrets, aren’t.
Their findings suggests that this may be because after running, the levels of endocannabinoids – chemicals found in marijuana that give you a feeling of euphoria – are higher in human’s and dogs and this encourages them to run again.
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