I hate running. It hurts. It’s boring. It’s time I could be catching up with my Netflix queue. Still, somehow, with the help of funky beats from these two morons, I’m able to occasionally motivate myself to suffer through it. It does help to shed a few pounds after all. Still doesn’t mean I enjoy it.
In the event that I do talk myself into going for a bit of a jog, I do always feel better afterwards. I’ve always heard of the runner’s high, but I don’t know that I’ve ever believed it. That is, perhaps, until now. David Raichlen and colleagues have reported recently in the Journal of Experimental Biology on their discovery of the neurobiological rewards associated with exercise.
This team was curious to find out what was going on in the body to give us that supposed euphoric feeling after exercise. One way to do this is to compare species that are built for running – dogs and humans in this case – to those that aren’t. They decided to use ferrets.
They put individuals of each of these three species onto a treadmill for half an hour and then took blood samples. They looked for changes in the levels of what they suspected was the cause of the high – endocannabinoids (eCBs). These molecules are produced by the body and interact with receptors in the brain that are known to activate “reward centers.”
They found that dogs and humans did have higher levels of eCBs after their exercise than did the ferrets. So in response to exercise, our body makes more of the eCBs, which stimulate signaling in the neurological brain reward system, giving us a real high.
The speculation is that our ancestors needed to be good at running for hunting and gathering to survive. Thus, natural selection and evolution linked a reward (the high) to a behavior that was good for us. Nowadays, it’s just something I’ll try to use as better motivation.
Thanks & Gig ‘Em.