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Can You Get High from Running? New Research Says Yes!

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I've blogged in the past about my love for running and how I try to make time for it, no matter how busy life gets. My husband is very supportive of my passion and is willing to watch the kids or do whatever I need in order for me to fit my run in for the day. He knows it means a lot to me, but also says my mood is often very different after a run than it was when I headed out the door. He jokes that running is my drug of choice, and now new research shows he might be right.

Researchers at Tufts University studied rats, dividing them into active and non-active groups (also further dividing them into groups that had food for one hour per day, versus having 24-hour access to food.) After several weeks of study, the rats were all given a drug to produce withdrawal symptoms from opiates. The active rats showed more withdrawal symptoms than the inactive ones.

The study, published in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience, concluded that an intense running regime in rats released the same brain chemicals that promote the sense of euphoria and well-being that opiates do. According to the researchers, "Somewhere during a longer, more intense run when stored glycogen is depleted, the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus release endorphins that can provide that 'second wind' that keeps a runner going." The hope is that this research can be used to design treatment programs for drug addicts--instead of getting high from drugs, they can get a natural high from running instead.

As with any other activity, some days I have good runs and some days I have not-so-good runs. There are days when I can't wait to finish, and days when I had just a little more time to push myself a little further. Although I can't say I get the "runner's high" very often, the way running makes me feel in general is enough to make me want to keep going.

Are you in a better mood after a run or other kind of workout? Have you ever experienced the "runner's high" you hear people talk about? What is that like for you?

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I always feel better after any workout. I sometimes spend the first 10 minutes of my run wishing I was doing something else, but if I can push through that I can run for miles. Sometimes I have a hard time bringing my run to an end and usually head around the block one more time. I usually work out first thing in the morning. I find if I work out in the afternoon, it's too easy to be distracted by other things and put it off. Report
I always have the high after running,
my mood is good after the run, even if I was grumpy when I left.
I run 30-50 minutes, outdoors and at a slow pace (11-12 min/mile).

But I think this "high" is the physiological state of mind, human body is designed to run and walk outside, under the sun,
and we get depressed if we don't have enough exercise/outdoor time. Report
I am an avid runner/power walker and I get such a rush when I got out that I can't sit still when I get home. I am always pumped. Today I did 9 miles (yes all at once) and then after a bath and some nourishment I went out again for 30 minutes to take the dog with me.

The high I get makes me fel so good I hope it never stops. Report
I love running...I have done many different forms of exercise in the past and never ran but once I started running about 3 years ago I have never looked back. I just love it. I am not fast or look great doing it but I love what it does for my mind and body. Report
I always feel better after a run whether is be a race or just a training run. It really is my therapy. if that's "Runner's High" so be it! Report
Running: I have been "a runner" on again/off again for the last 4 years. I love what it does for my body because it's a great calorie burner, but that's about it. I absolutely hate running. Some people say once you get out the door and get started, then it feels great and you just have to keep going. Not me. I have tried listening to music, running alone, running with someone else, running indoors, running outdoors, switching routes, entering races, etc. I feel like I have tried everything but I still hate every minute that I run. I feel bad that I feel this way because I know it's so good for me!

I prefer to burn my calories walking (less suffering, more enjoying the scenery!), swimming (no sweaty feeling!) or dancing but I don't lose weight as well when I do those things, so I run to try to lose weight. I wish I got out of it what others do! Report
Can't run for medical reasons so I've never had the runners high but I do know that I am addicted to my daily walk and that it changes my mood and attitude. And that is just form walking a few miles. Report
Well I have heard of "the runners high" all of my life but to date have never experienced it. I know alot of athaletes that tell me that they have and I do believe them, it just hasn't happened to me. I don't know if this has anything to do with anything, but when I played organized sports Thwe punishment that was always dished out for an infraction, was to have to run some set distance. Maybe I still think of running as a punishment. Am I a masochist, because I run a lot? Report
I think you should run for the pleasure of running and the exercise. I don't think you should look at it as a way to get high exactly. But can see where it would help people with depression etc. Good article and yes it does make sense. Report
I started running 8 weeks ago. On wednesday, I ran for 4.05 miles. Further than I have ever run before. I got to the place where I was supposed to stop, and felt so good, I HAD to keep going. Seriously, I could NOT stop. First of all, I couldn't believe I wasn't dying to stop before I got to where I was supposed to, more or less get there and still feel awesome. Both my mind and my body were protesting the idea of stopping then. The only reason I stopped, was because it was getting late and I wanted to get home in time to cuddle with my son and his his bedtime books and then put him to bed.

I think you could call that "runners high". I don't think you can say it only happens to endurance, long distance runners. I think the more you run, perhaps the longer you have to run to get that feeling... but it can happen to anyone. Everytime I run, I feel awesome afterwards, no matter how my body actually feels... I feel like I accomplished something... if my body feels good when I am done and not out of breath and in pain, I feel even better!

I totally believe you can get high from running--though I rather think the study would have been better off using people than rats (although not actually giving them drugs...) Report
I think the runner's high happens to more endurance athletes. I'm a runner and I get it about mile 5 or 6. Then I feel on top of the world - I can go forever - I love that euphoric feeling. If I'm only doing a short run of 3 or 4 miles, I don't get it. Although any exercise helps me to feel better all day long, it's not the same as the runners high I get around mile 6. Report
The pounding of feet on hard earth - the jolting of the limbs - bones and joints, breast flopping hard, heart racing, and the aching in my lower gums and jaw were torture. That is what running track in high school as a teenager felt like. Pure Agony. I was very tall, slim, fit, agile and healthy.

I am still tall, but now unfit, out of shape, and going back to the gym for the first time, today, but with a herniated disc. I still detest the thought of running. It is not a nice feeling to feel the heart race so hard that my chest is bounding as my heart is pounding.

I think I will go for a nice walk on the treadmill for starters. It is more natural and kinder to my physique. I don't need to get high. I don't want to be high. Report
Running makes me feel good as well.I wish I could have this drug all the time, but sometimes it gets so exhausting, but I can relate to this. Report
As an endurance cyclist I can tell you that riding big distances gives you a boost. My riding partner and I don't even consider a ride unless it's over 50 miles. The feeling of accomplishment and pride is a high that can't be beat.

Always look to push yourself to new highs! Report
I simply hate running! And it is not good on my knees. No matter how far and how often I run I get sick afterward so I won't run even if the doctor says I must. There are other exercises that are much better and easier on my joints. Report
I completely agree, i feel more active and better when i get up in the mornings to exercise. Report
Not all my runs are created equally. Like you said in your blog, there are some runs when I just want to be done. But for the most part, running or just working out in general does change my mood. I especially see it if I am having a stressful day or just a bad day in general. I come back with a fresh new outlook!

I love the feeling I get after a really nice long run. (5 miles or more) That is when I really feel the runners high! Report
I hate running. I hate the feeling of being jolted up and down. But I do speed walk several miles to work and am always in a good mood after doing so, so I guess I get a walker's high. I also get a similar feeling from swimming, and from going in a sauna and steamroom. Report
After I run, my energy is limitless. I hate it while I'm pushing myself to get through it, but the pay off is awesome. Report
I started running last year and what a difference it makes. I could barely get 1/4 of a mile without gasping and whimpering. Now I run a 5.5 mile route 3-4 times a week with just a few short walking breaks througout. While I know I an still working on my endurance, i am proud of the fact of how far I actually CAN run without stopping now. This past weekend I ran a 5k without stopping for the first time. There are many days that i can't wait to make it back home, but i love the way running makes me feel so i'll keep doing it anyway. Plus i enjoy noting the gradual improvements in my times and endurance. Report
I just started running last year, and completed my first half marathon on Sunday in Chicago. Every run is hard, but the feeling of satisfaction with my strength is so intense that it is worth it! That feels like a high every time, even if I don't get the burst of euphoria that occasionally hits around mile five... which, when it happens, is just like laughing gas. Love it!

I don't run far enough or long enough - yet! But my son says he feels that "high" - maybe that's what keeps him going. Report
Running makes me feel good and I think that's the high we are supposed to feel. Great article! Report
i am almost always in a better mood after working out. my husband says that i work all the stress away. i love the feeling of working out. i just wish i could do more. Report
I'm usually in a better mood, and I feel better about whatever stresses in life I'm dealing with. I don't get a runner's high, per se, but I sure do like how I feel after a long, hard, challenging run.... like I can accomplish anything. Report
I can't run far enough to experience a high. Hopefully one day I may be able to accomplish that feeling. Report
I am on week 3, day 1 of the Spark Your Way to a 10K & I'm loving it! I've never in my life been a runner. In fact, up until adulthood, I never really exercised at all. I avoided it. But I definitely get that "high" from my walks/runs & from spinning. Not every time, but often enough to keep me coming back. I joke around now that I'm addicted to exercise, period. I just feel good after every workout. It may not be that euphoric feeling each time, but it's still always a good feeling! Report
I want to know what your talking about from running but yes after exercising the tredmill, bike, and elliptical i feel a high of an upper side. I have too much energy... after im done im not tired im all hyped up, talkative, bouncing off the walls. It does feel like a high, bc im not afraid to admit that i have had an issue with an upper drug for 3yrs and i havent touched it in 3yrs.. but its crazy bc it feels just like that. Prolly why iam so obsessed and addicted to going to the gym and going crazy :) Report
I can agree with that. It's always difficult to get started but afterwards your glad that you done it and there is a feeling of acomplishment. Report
I have gotten something out of my walking that I had a hard time explaining to people. When I jogged this weekend for the first time in 20 years it was so much stronger or recharging for me. I am so enjoying my morning 4+ mile walk for the great feeling I have from it. It's just the right thing for me to do for me and I suppose everyone around me too! Report
I remember that "high", when I went through Police Academy, we ran ALOT! Now that I'm on a mission to loose weight, I want to enjoy that again. I guess for some people it isn't a strong enough "high" to keep it up. Obviously. Report
I've only recently started running...but my fiance tells me he can see a difference in my attitude after I go to Jazzercise class!! Being there, dancing, and doing the cardio work really relieves some stress for me, I guess!! :o)
As I continue to embark on my new journey of running....I hope to experience the "running high!" Report
I used to run and I remember the running high. After running so far you think about quiting but pushing yourself a bit and all the sudden you feel as if you can go on and a feeling rushes over you and you fly. It is the best feeling! I am trying to get back there after 20 years. I am determined to get there. It again is the best feeling if I can remember it after 20 years! Report
I always have a "high" after a good work out, whether it be cardio or strength or some combination. It definitely sets the tone for my day (one of the reasons I'd rather have a morning work out than an afternoon or evening work out). Report
I feel great after working out no matter what but nothing quite like a good long run! I ran 9 miles yesterday and I was as high as the clouds! Report
Yes, I always feel great after a workout, my workout of choice is the epllitical. The more time I spend the better I feel. Like the blogger said sometimes it is good and sometimes it is bad but over all I feel much better than not doing nothing. Report
I don't think I've experienced a true Runner's High, but I always feel my mood has lifted significantly after a workout. I'm always glad that I exercised when I finish. Report
I'm typically a little high after a vigorous workout but especially when i try to run. strange but true. Report
I love the feeling I get after an intense exercise, whether it's rpm, running a 5k, or doing a class at the local gym. It just makes you think clearer and feel better about any situation. You'd think that I would be in great shape as much as I love to work out... but sometimes I love being lazy just a little bit more. Report
No, I have never gotten ANY "high" from exercise. I do like to dance, so I guess that would be the place for me to go to have the most enjoyment. Report
No, I have never gotten ANY "high" from exercise. I do like to dance, so I guess that would be the place for me to go to have the most enjoyment. Report
No, I have never gotten ANY "high" from exercise. I do like to dance, so I guess that would be the place for me to go to have the most enjoyment. Report
No, I have never gotten ANY "high" from exercise. I do like to dance, so I guess that would be the place for me to go to have the most enjoyment. Report
I crave the runner's high! I love to run and my husband will kick me out of the house to go run if I'm grumpy or have every time! :) Report
I do not run, but I do take spin class and often feel that I get the same "high" from that. My mood is almost always better after a workout! Report
I usually don't realize I've been on a runner's high until I get towards the end of the run, check my garmin and realize I've been running for 2 hours and it's felt like 45 minutes. When I don't clearly remember running through my favourite park (did I? didn't I? How did I get home then??) - it's an incredible feeling of other worldliness. Unfortunately, it doesn't happen every run. Tonight I ran 13 very hard kms that are usually dead easy at 5:30 am - but I keep at it because, even without a bonafide high, I feel incredible when I'm done.

You've heard the runner's joke? When asked why she ran, the runner replied, "well, it's kind of like banging your head against a wall - it feels so good when you stop." Report
I've noticed a curious thing about myself. Although I'm an optimistic person, I do occasionally get "the blues". When that happens, I know that a sure-fire way to get rid of the "the blues" is for me to exercise. It works every time, and I feel great. The exercise doesn't have to be vigorous - it can just be a walk, but it will lift my mood and restore me. So, yes, I do notice that exercise improves my mood.

As for runner's high - I've had that happen a few times, mostly when riding my bicycle, and it's really incredible! Wish it would happen more or that I knew how to reliably make it happen. Report
Almost every long run gives me that "high". Usually after mile 5 I am in that zone where your body just goes through the motions, and you are almost blind to your surroundings because your are completely and entirely "in your head". I've missed my turn around point more than a few times, and if my run is a point to point, I've missed major landmarks that I didn't realize were there until revisit the trail on a bike or walk. I love that feeling, you do feel that you can run forever, there is no pain, no effort.

I have zoned out lifting weights before and I've had some kickboxing sessions that felt really awesome, but other than that feel good feeling, nothing comes close to that out of body feeling I get when I run. Report
I just ran a 5k and for my size and age finished better than I expected. The runners high did kick in and I felt great the rest of the day. Report
I don't know. Occasionally I get kind of a floaty feeling after a long vigorous walk, but I'm not sure that's a high. Report