Fat cells secrete the hormone leptin as a means of signaling the brain when we’re full after eating. But new research indicates that leptin may also play a role in motivating us to exercise as well—possibly contributing to the phenomenon of “runner’s high.”
I don’t know about other runners, but I start feeling the effects of a runners high between 15 and 20 minutes of the start of a run and the effects last well through the day. If other folks experience their runners highs around the same point that I do, they can still get three highs a week doing 45 minute jogging sessions.
Recently, researchers studied how the brain responds to running and found that the ability to get “high” while logging miles might be hard-wired within us. Years ago, our ancestors’ survival likely depended on chasing down food. The desire to live was possibly their motivation to run and run fast, and the feel-good brain chemicals released when they did so may have helped them achieve the speed and distances required, says David A. Raichlen, Ph.D., an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona. The runner’s high may have served (and serves today) as a natural painkiller, masking tired legs and blistered feet, he says.
Even though you no longer have to chase down dinner, learning how happy brain reactions are sparked may help you achieve the runner’s high more often.