How To Get Endorphins From Running

Runners often speak about the “runner’s high” that they experience after a certain running period. This sense of euphoria can lead to running longer and an overall sense of peace and happiness. 

Endorphins can be triggered during running when runners push themselves. Runners should run for longer, between one and two hours, with a higher intensity. The key is consistent, non-stop running with a sustainable pace. This can result in the desired runner’s high when endorphins are released. 

Running has numerous physical and mental benefits, and one of these is the trigger of endorphins being released. Endorphin release causes calmness, joy, and a general sense of delight and plays a role in reducing pain and anxiety while running. 

Want to know how to get endorphins from running and experience that runner’s high?

Let’s find out how!

The Runner’s High and Endorphins

How to get endorphins from running

Simply put, the runners high that people experience from running results from a burst of endorphins that are triggered.

A runner’s high causes a feeling of relaxation, bliss, and euphoric state. This essentially means that a runner will feel extreme happiness or joy during a runner’s high moment. 

This state lasts only a short period, and it follows intense exercise like running for a few miles.

Usually, a lengthy amount of running is required before this high hits, which may be difficult for beginners to reach. Therefore, not all runners will experience this. 

How Do Endorphins Work In A Runner’s High?

When you go on a run or do other types of aerobic exercise, there is a release of chemicals into your bloodstream called endorphins.

These chemicals are made in your pituitary gland and central nervous system. Endorphins are released in response to a brain chemical called a neurotransmitter. 

You may have heard of the “feel good” chemicals, which refer to these endorphins.

Appropriately named, endorphins cause a feeling of happiness and delight when released. Interestingly, endorphins cause such calmness and peace because they trigger the same part of the brain that drugs like morphine do. 

The difference between endorphins and chemicals that cause the same reaction, like morphine, is that endorphins naturally occur in the body and do not lead to addiction or any other adverse side effects. 

Although many of us would insist that we’re addicted to running!

Endorphins also help reduce the perception of pain during and after running, which allows you to go that little bit extra and recover better. It also plays a role in less anxiety, which helps keep the focus on running. 

What happens in your body and brain during a run that causes the release of endorphins?

After you start a run, more and more oxygenated blood is circulated to your brain and muscles for them to work. As this gets more intense, endorphins are released.

The Role Of Endocannabinoids In A Runner’s High

Although the long-standing belief is that endorphins are responsible for a runner’s high, newer research suggests differently. Endorphins are large molecules, too large to be able to pass the blood-brain barrier. 

This means that they cannot be responsible for influencing the brain, which causes the feeling of euphoria.

Instead, endocannabinoids could be the underlying factor for a runner’s high. Endocannabinoids are chemical substances that are produced by the body. 

Endocannabinoids are a natural version of THC that also occurs in marijuana. A specific type of endocannabinoid is anandamide, and this chemical could be triggering that runner’s high. More in-depth research still needs to be done on which exact chemical produces the feelings of calm and pleasure during running. 

Research suggests that endocannabinoids move more easily between the bloodstream and the brain, triggering the brain regions that control effects such as anxiety, happiness, joy, and calmness. 

How To Get Endorphins From Running?

It’s no secret that every runner wants to experience the famous runner’s high.

Endorphins, or as more recently suggested, endocannabinoids, need to be trigged in your system for this to happen. There are different theories on how this can happen. 

Push Your Body Into Stress

To try and get some endorphins flowing, you need to push yourself. That being said, you also shouldn’t push yourself too hard. Your body needs to be under enough stress to trigger the endorphins as they are a chemical in response to physical discomfort. 

Don’t go at your maximum effort, but run a bit harder and faster than you usually do. Trying to get endorphins at max effort won’t work because they can’t overrule injury or extreme fatigue.

It is suggested to try and run between 70% and 85% of your max heart rate. This can trigger the endorphins in your body. Remember, your max heart rate differs per age. Here is an equation to work out your max heart rate for yourself: 211 – (0.64 x age). 

Max heart rate

Using this equation, your max heart rate is 195 if you are 25 years old. Therefore, you should aim to run between 136 and 165 beats per minute to achieve that runner’s high. This is one way to make sure you push your body into enough physical stress. 

The main thing here is also to keep your heart rate consistent.

It should be steady and sustainable, so going too high for only a few minutes won’t help either. On a subjective scale, aim for a 6 out of 10 (1 being too easy and 10 being the most difficult).

Run Longer Than Usual

Some suggest running for one to two hours to get the most out of your run and produce a runner’s high. Consistency is key here, and the emphasis should be on rhythmical, continuous running. 

Some researchers propose that a two-hour run seems to be the amount of time that should get you a runner’s high. This includes non-stop running. During this time, moderate intensity is required. So jogging for two hours without much effort won’t get those endorphins flowing. 

Beginner runners cannot run for so long at the start and therefore do not get the chance to experience the euphoric state. However, it’s critical to try and push through and run as much as you need to try and hit those longer runs.

This is the biggest challenge to getting endorphins pumping and why many runners do not report any high. 

Vary Your Running Schedule

Mix up your running schedule by also including some tempo runs. Push yourself to 80% to 90% of your max heart rate to try and get those endorphins triggered. If you have planned 4 runs for the week, make sure one of them is a long run, and one includes more sprinting. 

Use our training pace calculator to work out how fast you need to run to achieve tempo pace.

You can experiment with different running conditions, like hills or trail running. These variations will make running more exciting and help you figure out the best way to get endorphins. Try running in the mornings versus running in the late afternoons. 

Run With Other Runners

Running with others can help to get a runner’s high.

A study by Oxford University found that rowers who exercised together had a higher endorphin release than rowing alone. Rowing is also an aerobic activity, so it’s worth testing this theory with running. 

Listen To Music While Running

Listening to music, especially your favorite music, may play a role in releasing endorphins. Wear your headphones or earphones when you go running next to try this out. This is a good option if you don’t have the opportunity to go running with others. 

However, running while listening to music can be risky in traffic or busy areas, so make sure to run in a safe space. 

Tips For Beginners To Get Endorphins From Running

Running endorphins

Do all runners experience runners high?

Unfortunately, not. Many runners never experience this phenomenon, which is especially true for new runners. A reason for this is that the more experience you are, the more likely you will feel it.

However, there are some tips for those wanting to gain this experience. Beginner runners can focus on running often and building up stamina so that they can go on longer runs at a more intense level. This is where you will most likely find a runner’s high. 

The benefits of endorphins and the amazing feeling from a runner’s high motivate any beginner on their running journey. After weeks or months of running practice, you’ll be able to push your body a bit more and run more consistently. 

Another vital aspect is running non-stop. Running continuously is one way how endorphins are triggered. With experience and hard work, you’ll be able to run for longer without breaks. 

Beginner runners can also vary their running workouts, trying some tempo runs or running up and down hills. This keeps the schedule exciting and will also help to build endurance. 

Recovery time and enough sleep are essential for running and help you achieve that runner’s high. You are continuously putting your body under prolonged periods of stress, which need time to rest and recover. 

Our Verdict: The Endorphins Are Worth The Run!

Endorphins are the chemicals released into our bodies when we do prolonged aerobic activity, like running.

Endorphins are responsible for the feeling of euphoria and peacefulness during a runner’s high. 

You can get endorphins from running by running faster and longer and pushing your body a bit harder. You can also try running with others or listening to your favorite playlist. 

Author Profile

Esme Sanders

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Esme is a frequent contributor who manages to stay much more neutral on these pages than she ever manages after a glass of wine at club night. She is a 5K-10K specialist, albeit one with over twenty half-marathons under her belt. Esme divides her time between a busy career, two kids, yoga, pilates AND a busy race schedule.
Esme Sanders

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