Not So Different: The 'Runner's High' And Cannabis

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Not So Different: The 'Runner's High' And Cannabis

Scientists have long been trying to understand the science behind the runner's high, and new research suggests it is more complicated than it first seemed.

Thanks to previous research, we already know that the endocannabinoid system and exercise have a very close relationship. Well, now a group of scientists have taken it further, going as far as to say that it could be naturally produced endocannabinoids, not endorphins, which are mostly responsible for the “runners high.”

The “runners high” is a phenomenon that results from intense exercise, increasing enjoyment, feelings of tranquillity, and pain resistance post workout – much like being high on marijuana. For a long time, this was thought to be caused by endorphins, a natural opioid produced by the body. However, researchers from the University of Heidelberg Medical School have found that when mice exercise (mice having very similar physiology to humans), they produce elevated levels of both endorphins and endocannabinoids - endocannabinoids being the body's own version of the cannabinoids in cannabis.

The thing is, when the endocannabinoid system was blocked in these mice, they no longer showed enjoyment from running, or the post-work out relaxation or pain relief normally associated with it. It strongly suggests that it is the body’s own version of cannabis that is responsible for these feelings. The runners high could truly be the same as enjoying a bit of MJ.

However, while this research has shown that the endocannabinoid system is much more important that we thought when it comes to exercise, the body’s natural opioids still have a role to play. Research from the University of Missouri has found that activating the opioid receptors that are usually activated while running made rats less likely to exercise. It was also found that blocking these receptors also reduced activity, but not to the same degree as blocking the endocannabinoid system.

What this all means is that the endocannabinoid system is more integral to our lives than we may have initially thought. Our bodies are using their own natural versions of cannabis to reward us for performing intensive exercise, helping change the way we think about cannabis. So if you want to get high, but are out of weed, go for a really long run!