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Runner's high and your heart

Comments (11)
By Peter Hadzipetros

They're talking about it again — that mythical point when you're exercising hard and your mind and body seem to separate and this euphoric feeling comes over you. Runner's high, some folks call it. Hooey, according to others.

Meriam Webster defines it as "a feeling of euphoria that is experienced by some individuals engaged in strenuous running and that is held to be associated with the release of endorphins by the brain."

Last week, researchers at the University of Iowa rekindled the debate with their innocuous-sounding paper Exercise Enhances Myocardial Ischemic Tolerance via an Opioid Receptor-Dependent Mechanism.

In English, that means "runner's high" may not only make you feel good, it may help ward off heart attacks.

The study, published in the American Journal of Physiology's Heart and Circulatory Physiology, found that rats didn't reap the cardiovascular benefits of vigorous exercise when researchers blocked the receptors that bind morphine, endorphins and other opioids. The study's authors say their research is the first to link the production of those chemicals during exercise to the "cardio-protective effects of exercise."

Almost three years ago, a study out of the Georgia Institute of Technology found that runner's high is caused by anandamide, a member of the family of chemicals known as cannabinoids.

Andanamide produces effects similar to THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, the study said. The body produces it as a response to stress, which helps the body control the pain associated with the stress. The lead researcher, Arne Dietrich, has run several marathons and has recorded a personal best of two hours and 52 minutes, which qualifies him as someone who has certainly felt some pain.

Dietrich's study caught a lot of attention in magazines like this one and some blogs.

Dietrich didn't investigate whether the THC-like high that some runners may experience actually makes the heart stronger, but he was convinced it did no harm.

For me, that runner's high usually comes around the 36-kilometre point of a marathon, just before I can swear that I see this staircase rising up from just around the next corner. As I approach, it's clear that it leads to a doorway somewhere up in the clouds. The door opens slowly and a bright light lures me up the stairs.

I take another bite of my brownie — er, energy bar — and crank up the Led Zeppelin.

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Comments (11)

PTM

I usually run 50 minutes for 8 km per day. I notice that my runner's high on the treadmill appears at 25 minutes after start. I experience weightless and I could run forever. But my mind tells me that I have to stop; otherwise I will probably hybernate like a polar bear for the rest of the day.

Posted January 23, 2008 12:01 AM

Cheryl

Pennsylvania

For the first time, I jogged for 65 minutes. During the last ten minutes I ran faster and felt like I could run forever. When the treadmill stopped and I could not get it to turn on again (first time on treadmill), I think I experienced runner's high. My body was floating and yes, my mind and by body felt separated. It scared me and I thought there was something wrong with me but after reading all of your comments, I'm realizing this was probably runner's high. I walked around for a couple of minutes in the gym and eventually came "back to earth".

Posted December 4, 2007 09:14 AM

Kia

toronto

I love the er- energy bar comment too, lol.. but .. all I have to say is for u guys to cut down ont eh weed, atleast not before running... lol
Just joking, i have been getting the rush lately, after the 50 mins in my run, but im on a tread mil because of the cold and but i dont know about the "forgetting whats surrounding me" or "seeing staircases" if I lose concentration or forget that in a tread mill or running outside i would either face plant on the concrete get lost.. or ger hit by a car... so.. but i guess after i do the 50 min time i do get the drive and painless almost renewed feelinf to keep reading another hour

Posted November 24, 2007 04:13 PM

El Samo

Great, another excuse for me to train more! As if my Iron-Widow wasn't testy enough. Runners' High hits for me over about an hour in or upwards of my endurance heart rate zone (~150 bpm) - It is not a myth ... It's what keeps me out there for the rest of the afternoon.

Posted November 18, 2007 01:08 AM

Melanie

Toronto

I am SO glad to read this. I come from a family of heart disease and heart attacks.

I ran a super hard run last week and felt that surge of everything at the end. My heart was racing. But every time I do a tempo run I get a little worried about whether I'm pushing myself - whether this is good for my genetic pre-disposition to heart problems. I'm glad to to read that some pushing is good (and yes, I realise that you and those you cite are not suggesting going ALL OUT).

All that said, I also have to be very careful about the other factors - the bigger factors that would lead to a potential heart attack.

Last night I ate my second UN-heart smart meal of the week. A cheese burger (brie no less) with bacon. Bad, bad, bad ... I NEVER eat like this normally so I'm probably going to live through it. Still, I gave myself a slap on the wrist, had some bran and green tea and lots of water but also had a good long think about my risk factors. "Honey, we need to have more things with beans in them ..." I said. "No more brie burgers."

Posted November 17, 2007 12:28 PM

simon

Toronto

I am also training for my second marathon and I get runners high usually 50 minutes into a long run. Dont get me wrong, I still feel some "serious pain" in runs of 30 km or more but I do know the high is there and now understand that it could be helping me better control the pain.

Fully agree with previous post: everyone who can should run.

Posted November 16, 2007 01:49 PM

Jim

Timmins

I love that moment when you become separated from your surroundings. Time blurs, pain dissipates, stimulii subsides. It is so euphoric that I dont bother to share details of it with non-runners - they don't get it. I get a similar feeling when I'm snowboarding, and the conditions are just right, but that is more of a connection to the snow and my board, not a disconnection.

Posted November 16, 2007 11:36 AM

J W

NL

For me the best runner's high was running on narrow windy forest trails, after about 40 minutes my body would enter a relaxed tranquil state and I would speed up. The extra bit of speed made me feel as if I was zooming along the path almost effortless.

I never ever timed myself to see if I was actually going faster, the appearance was way better than the real thing.

Posted November 15, 2007 10:28 PM

Billy Q

Oklahoma

Its good to hear that the runner's high may have beneficial effects. Either way, I'll keep running. I get the high after 35-40 minutes of running, and like Frenchie, it helps keep me motivated to stay in shape. I think a lot of "runner's high nay-sayers" just haven't run long or hard enough to have experienced it.

Posted November 15, 2007 12:01 PM

Deb Johnson

LOL, love the last line about the brownie, er that energy bar. Hehe. But yeah, that runner's high is a wonderful thing. Sets you gliding along a path of happiness. You feel invincible, I'll agree.

Posted November 14, 2007 09:53 PM

Frenchie

Ottawa

Runner's high is one of the reasons that brings me out the door 5 times a week. During my training for my second marathon, I got the high on every single long run I went on. It came around 10 to 12 km averytime and stayed with me for however long I ran, making the pain and tiredness of a 35 km run seem all worthwhile. No substance has ever made me feel this good... More people should try it!

Posted November 14, 2007 10:26 AM

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