Is a Runner’s High a Real Thing?

Is a Runner’s High a Real Thing?

Is a Runner's High a Real Thing

After a good run, some people feel a brief and intense sense of euphoria, reduced pain and discomfort, and a feeling of being invincible. Learn about what causes a runner’s high

According to medical experts, a runner’s high is indeed a real thing. After a good run, some people feel a brief and intense sense of euphoria, reduced pain and discomfort, and a feeling of being invincible. 

For many years, it was believed that a runner’s high was due to the release of endorphins in the body. However, recent studies have shown that other chemicals such as endocannabinoids and dopamine may be responsible for the euphoric feeling.

What causes a runner’s high?

During exercise, your body releases chemicals and hormones into your blood that may be associated with the feeling of elation that comes with a runner’s high:

  • Endorphins: Endorphins are feel-good chemicals that are produced by the pituitary gland and the central nervous system. Acting as opioid receptors, endorphins reduce pain, stress, anxiety, and depression and boost feelings of happiness and pleasure.
  • Endocannabinoids: Running activates the endocannabinoid system of the brain, which is typically triggered after the consumption of cannabis and causes a feeling of bliss. Anandamide, a type of endocannabinoid, is found in high levels in people who have just finished a run.
  • Dopamine: Dopamine is a hormone released during exercise that reduces symptoms of depression and may improve mood. 

What are the benefits of running?

While a runner’s high is not guaranteed every time you go for a run, benefits of running include the following:

  • Reduced feelings of anxiety or depression
  • Increased immunity
  • Improved concentration and focus
  • Reduces the risk of heart diseases
  • Improved response to insulin
  • Weight loss
  • Improved mobility and flexibility

How can you achieve a runner’s high?

There is no formula to achieving a runner’s high, and it may not happen every time. However, chances of achieving a sense of calm and relaxation of a run improve with the following tips:

  • Run at fast pace, about 70%-80% of your maximum intensity
  • Run for an extended period of time
  • Be consistent

It is also important to schedule enough days of rest and add circuit training with running to prevent your body from adjusting to the workout. In order to avoid injury, make sure to:

  • Do light stretches
  • Stay hydrated
  • Avoid running on unsuitable surfaces
  • Wear appropriate footwear

Although running is an effective exercise with many health benefits, avoid running if you have injuries or weak joints.


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Medically Reviewed on 5/10/2022


Image Source: iStock Image

Boynton E. What Is a Runner’s High — and How Can You Get One? UW Medicine.

Johns Hopkins Medicine. The Truth Behind ‘Runner’s High’ and Other Mental Benefits of Running.