What is the Secret of a Cardio High? It’s Not Endorphins

Exploring Intensity

What is the Secret of a Cardio High? It’s Not Endorphins

The title may seem like we’re promoting our own company, as if we have a secret, but we’re actually talking about an actual cardio high, as in that sense of elation you feel after you get your heart rate up and your mood follows. Despite everyone seeming to have an answer for what happens to our bodies and brains after a good bout of exercise, it has actually remained much of a mystery… until possibly now.

Endorphins, as much as people believe they are the thing that lights up your brain, are actually too big to get through the blood-brain barrier. So while they are opiates that help out the body, what they can do for your body they are not able to do for your mind.

So German researchers went looking in a different direction, and used trusty mice to figure it out.

On thing we learned from this article, aside from the endorphins info, is that when mice aren’t running away from things they are actually doing it for fun. So, the researchers concluded, if mice are having fun that means that something biologically pleasurable must be happening to them. And, the researchers noted, the mice that ran a lot just seemed, well, happier.

So they tried to isolate two things — endorphins and endocannabinoids, or the things in your brain that produce similar effects to marijuana. They checked the mice running, with their endorphins suppressed and saw no change, while those who had their little weed valve shut off showed a notable lack of post-workout enjoyment.

So, it seems, without those cannabinoids, that high might not exist. It seems.

Much more research has to be done, particularly on humans, and like many things with the brain it could very well be a much more complex answer. But next time someone tries to tell you that it’s endorphins that give us that cardio high, you can now set them straight.