What Is Runner's High?

Runner's high is the temporary feeling of euphoria some people experience after running or exercising. While endorphins have long been credited as the cause of runner's high, new research suggests that endocannabinoids may be responsible for this feel-good response to intense exercise (via Healthline). Endorphins are neurochemicals that trigger a positive feeling in the body, but they are too large to pass through the blood-brain barrier, making it highly unlikely for endorphins to be responsible for runner's high.

Endocannabinoids, on the other hand, are small enough to pass through the blood-brain barrier and can temporarily reduce anxiety and create a feeling of euphoria when released during exercise. High levels of anandamide, a type of endocannabinoid, have been found in the blood of people who have just finished a long run or intense workout.

While not everyone who runs or exercises will experience a runner's high, those who do are more likely to work out again in order to achieve that same feeling.

How to achieve runner's high

Despite the name, you don't actually need to run in order to achieve a runner's high. You just need to engage in an intense workout or exercise for a lengthy period of time. "We're most conducive to experiencing it if we do a long, continuous bout of exercise, generally one that's rhythmical," Paul J. Arciero, a professor in the health and exercise sciences department at Skidmore College, told Self. "Two hours seems to be the sweet spot for encountering it."

It's not just the length of the workout. It's also the intensity. Running or exercising at an increased rate and pace increases the likelihood that your endocannabinoid receptors will be stimulated. Be careful not to push yourself too hard, however. A workout that is too intense could restrict blood flow, greatly reducing your chances of achieving a runner's high.

That's why steady-state cardio is the best way to go if you're looking to experience a runner's high. Steady-state cardio is a moderate-intensity aerobic exercise that will allow you to elevate your heart rate without exerting yourself too much.