Incredible Mechanisms of Our Body Part I - Runner's High
Modern life includes a lot of sitting - be it at work or using computers for any kind of purposes. Since our bodies were designed by nature for physical activity, some nowadays most common problems are related to this issue, back pain and obesity being widespread in our societies. To counter that, we indulge in sports like running, which have had quite a Renaissance in the late 20th century. The term Renaissance (meaning rebirth) is quite fitting, because at some point we tended to go running a lot (and by a lot I mean basically the whole day). Physical activity was not only crucial for a person's health, but even more the key to survive. At earlier stages in human history - especially when we were merely hunters and gatherers - not only did we need a lot of stamina to find enough food, but it could save us from vital threats like dangerous animals.
So, it's safe to say that our body includes mechanisms to encourage physical activity and - even in a state of exhaustion - find a way to keep going. Because a hungry saber toothed tiger will not leave you much of a choice if you are going to be his dinner - or not.
One effect stress in particular can have on our body is the release of adrenaline, which everyone of us experienced at some point. It makes you stay focused on what you're about to do, numb to pain and free of thoughts that don't matter at the moment.
State of euphoria
Something quite different though is the so-called Runner's High, an effect quite similar to the impact some drugs may have on your body. It's not easy to achieve - some people might never experience it - because you need to run quite a distance of at least several miles, which may be the primary obstacle to most people. But even then, it's not guaranteed at all that you will have a taste of what it's like.
The reason why many people consider it desirable to achieve a Runner's High is that in the immediate moment after your run, it greatly lowers your anxiety level and pain and gives you a general feeling of well-being.
For a long time, scientists believed endorphins to be responsible for the Runner's High because they are the cause for many beneficial effects on your body, so it seemed obvious that they might just be for that one as well.
But recent studies suggest that endorphins might have little to almost no effect on this state of euphoria. Instead, it's the endocannabinoids that induce it. Sounds familiar? Our body's endocannabinoid system is also triggered by THC, the most active compound of Cannabis which can stimulate similar feelings like relaxation and stress relief.
Thinking once more of our Stone Age ancestors, it makes sense that our body is able to reward us for physical activity, since we needed it to endure the hardship of those times.
Nowadays, we tend to forget about the incredible mechanisms in our body and are often tempted to gain those effects by the use of drugs or body enhancers, while we can often achieve the same from within - in a completely natural way.
Start your Cologne running series from June to August for all Cologne fans and support the NRW Cancer Society. Register for one of the four series and run your distance on a respective day and report your times to us via the running portal. After each run, the ranking will be updated.
Picture 1 : Tim Oun via unsplash
Picture 2 :Cam Adams via unsplash
Picture 3 :Clem Onojeghuo via unsplash