Runner’s high is the feeling of euphoria felt by athletes during or after vigorous exercise. For many years, sport scientists couldn’t prove whether it really existed or whether it was simply people feeling good while exercising.

Rush of Euphoria

Runner's high has been described as an intense rush of euphoria, often compared to the 'high' induced by some drugs.

For some people, it’s an intense feeling of happiness while others may even cry. This is most likely a feeling of satisfaction or even relief, as they pass over the finish line.

Release of Endorphins

Sport scientists have worked for years to shed light on this phenomenon, hoping to find a biochemical explanation for the anecdotal runner's high. It had been suspected that exercise could prompt the release of endorphins, which could explain the mood changes described by athletes. 

However, until recently the only way to test if endorphins were present in the brain was by a spinal tap. This method made it simply impossible to test athletes before and after exercise.

The Verdict

In 2008 a research team from Germany published a paper in the journal Cerebral Cortex, reporting that they had found an accurate method for measuring endorphins before and after exercise.

In the experiment, twelve athletes were scanned and the level of endorphins in their brains measured. Then they completed a two hour run, and were scanned again afterwards. The findings showed that "the level of endorphins was significantly increased after running".

Visit the Cerbral Cortex Journal to learn more on this experiment

Finally, the debate can be laid to rest: runner’s high is fact, not fiction.

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