Why Running Makes You Happy


By Kirsten Cowart

A recent study from the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM) shows that the joy of running is more than just endorphins. The “runner’s high” also involves the neurotransmitter for motivation known as dopamine.  

“We discovered that the rewarding effects of endurance activity are modulated by leptin, a key hormone in metabolism. Leptin inhibits physical activity through dopamine neurons in the brain,” said lead author Stephanie Fulton of the article published in the journal of Cell Metabolism.

Leptin Is Key In Physical Activity

Your body is designed to reward you when you do something good. When you run or exercise, leptin is secreted by your adipose or fat tissue.  

“The more fat there is, the more leptin there is and the less we feel like eating. Our findings now show that this hormone also plays a vital role in motivation to run, which may be related to searching for food,” explained professor at Université de Montréal’s Department of Nutrition, Stephanie Fulton.

Hormones For Exercise And Eating Are Very Closely Linked

Researchers have found that the hormone signals that are connected with exercise and eating are closely connected. Endurance running is believed to be evolved in mammals in order to increase the chances of finding food.  

Leptin is believed to play an important role in keeping your energy balanced. What it does is release reward feelings such as the “runner’s high,” in order to encourage you to increase your physical activity in search for food.

Study Results Were Found In Humans As Well As Mice

“Previous studies have clearly shown a correlation between leptin and marathon run times. The lower leptin levels are, the better the performance. Our study on mice suggests that this molecule is also involved in the rewarding effects experienced when we do physical exercise.”

“We speculate that for humans, low leptin levels increase motivation to exercise and make it easier to get a runner’s high,” said Stephanie Fulton.

Mammals, in general, appear to be designed to enjoy running as a way to increase overall survival. Even though you no longer hunt for your food, you still experience the benefits of dopamine in your brain when you exercise for longer periods of time.  

Do you enjoy “runner’s high?” Let us know about your experiences in the comments below.

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Kirsten Campbell
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Kirsten Campbell

Kirsten Cowart is a writer and researcher that has worked in the spiritual, mental health and medical fields.Kirsten enjoys studying and experiencing the benefits of yoga, meditation, nutrition, herbalism, organic gardening and alternative health.She worked hard in 2014 losing over 40 lbs. and has since maintained a healthy lifestyle.Follow her to learn more about her journey on Twitter, Facebook & Youtube!
Kirsten Campbell
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