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Endorphins and Exercise

Posted 186 Days Ago in: Training

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That feel-good feeling associated with exercise can be directly correlated to chemicals in the brain that stimulate the body to feel this way. These neurochemicals are known as endorphins and are produced in the brain as a reaction to stress and pain. They minimise the negative impact both of these can have on your wellbeing – mind and body – and can also lead to feelings of euphoria in some cases. One of these cases is during exercise. An interview with J. Kip Matthews goes on to explain how "endorphins are also involved in natural reward circuits related to activities such as feeding, drinking, sexual activity and maternal behaviour.”

Endorphins were discovered circa 1975 when a group of scientists led by John Hughes and Hans W. Kosterlitz published an article in Nature entitled, “”Identification of two related pentapeptides from the brain with potent opiate agonist activity.”” And ever since then we have associated with these “highs”, akin to taking harmful drugs, as the brain’s way of promoting feelings of happiness.

                          

What Does This Mean For Exercise?

 

First of all, there has been a growing interest in exercise as a means to combat everything from stress to depression. A psychological study explains that exercise can be used as “a mechanism and a potential therapeutic role for exercise are suggested for treatment of pain, alcoholism, anxiety, bulimia, hypertension, addiction, depression, and anorexia nervosa.” There are definitely other factors at play, but it shouldn't mean disregarding the potential benefits of exercise that reach far beyond simply getting fit and losing weight.

 

So how do these two things tie-in?

 

Well…

 

Exercise promotes the release of endorphins.

 

A number of studies suggest that “endorphins depress ventilation and may, therefore, play a role in ventilatory regulation by carbon dioxide, hypoxia and exercise. It may also be possible that during exercise, the perception of fatigue is modulated by an increase of endorphins.” To put in simple terms, when endorphins are released, the body enters into this feel-good mode and this may be why people who engage in intense endurance activities go beyond the pain barrier and are capable of resisting the urge to quit because their perception of pain is changed by endorphins.  

 

Notable Endorphins

 

All this talk about endorphins and exercise, but we still don’t have a grounded logic in what is being released and what it means for the mind and body.

 

Allow us to take you through two of the main neurochemicals released by various structures of the brain that promote, above all else, a reduction in pain and an increase in smiles.

 

Anandamide – this is a chemical associated with stress regulation, as a lack of it increases the likelihood of stress, studies show. What is also interesting about it is that exercise can increase levels of this, and that it may be associated with brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which funnily enough is one of the proteins that DNAFit looks at when it comes to our stress genetic test. This protein is essential when it comes to maintaining healthy neurons and creating new ones, while the production of it is crucial when it is imperative that stress levels are lowered.

 

Serotonin – this is the main feel-good chemical that has long since been linked to cases of depression when levels are low. A boost in serotonin can mean everything when it comes to remaining motivated and feeling happy, and it just so happens that exercises promotes the release of it. Studies show that, in particular, “aerobic exercises, like running and biking, are the most likely to boost serotonin.” This may be the reason why even after a gruelling marathon, runners are still smiling through grimaces of pain – and perhaps why they somehow forget about how physically demanding the race was, keen to go again the following week.

 

Endorphins, Pain, And Staying Fit

 

So, now that we know a little more about endorphins, let’s take a look at their staying power and how it promotes the body and mind to go beyond what you perhaps thought you were capable of. We have all heard the terms “mind over matter” and “pushing your limits” and endorphins could be the reason why ordinary, average humans do extraordinary things – along with the much-loved adrenaline.

 

In terms of what’s going on in the body, a 2003 study found that “the more severe pain someone experience post-surgery, the higher their blood plasma endorphin levels.” So, endorphins respond to pain in the body, and further research shows that “exercise can have a similar effect when it comes to exercise.” Which is why we all get that extra spring in our step following an intense session of cardio – where we should be dying we tend to fly through the day walking tall and spreading love everywhere we go.

 

Research shows that “while many people started an exercise program to lose weight and improve their appearance, they continued to exercise because of the benefits to their well-being.” Once again, it can only be these endorphins. We all train for various reasons, but wouldn't do it if it felt terrible after every single session – being humans we would simply find another way that keeps us happy! Thankfully, exercise improves our mood and although you may have your training goals in mind, you’ll also find yourself coming back for a life void of stress and filled with healthy highs.

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Training Endorphins Exercise Gym Fitness

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