Some of us know avid runners. These don’t have to be the marathon or triathlon types, just people who like to go for a run or a jog nearly every day either before or after work. When they finish, they might be sweating profusely and breathing heavy, but they are still standing erect, smiling, having fun while they drink their water or Gatorade.

The rest of us who don’t do that very often then wonder how in the heck can these pepple do that? How can they run for miles and still stand and have fun written on their face?

Running is their weed, you see.

At least, that seems to be the finding from a recent study that was reported on in Scientific American magazine. The research, conducted on mice by German scientists, seemed to isolate the cause of what is called “runner’s high,” a euphoric feeling that comes about from rigorous exercise, such as running. This euphoria, which is shown by less stress or anxiety and a higher tolerance for pain, has always been thought of as stemming from the release of endorphins. But the tests conducted on these mice seemed to show that instead, it was endocannabinoids – hormones triggered by THC, the active ingredient in marijuana – which seemed to cause the “runner’s high” effect.

Now, we must make clear that this study was conducted on mice, and humans have not been tested on this. However, mice do actually have systems that are similar to humans, which is why they are often tested. But this at least opens the door to further study to essentially confirm that our cannabinoid system is valuable to our health and THC adversely affects it in a very artificial way as to lead to an abuse of the system where it actually may not recover when a person quits using marijuana.

The cannabinoid system is valuable in helping our brains register pain and excessive heat or cold, and blunting it with THC from marijuana smoking can cause an effect that can last for hours. While a “runner’s high” can be very temporary – perhaps lasting only a few minutes after a run – it can have a positive long-lasting effect in terms of regulating the body’s pain sensitivity and the person’s overall mood. Also, the researchers had to note that the concept of “euphoria” is something that is subjective and is not accurately depicted in mouse subjects. So, you can basically guarantee that a human study on “runner’s high” and its triggers will be forthcoming.

In the meantime, while there is still much to learn on this subject, this does at least take a step toward affirming what has been believed for years: That exercise of some kind, regardless of triggers, can be a positive alternative to getting high on drugs. Running, jogging, brisk walking, swimming, working out in a gym, all have the positive effect on your body in a very natural way that gives you positive feelings without detaching you from reality, as artificial, chemically enhanced euphoria often does.

In a sense, it does not matter where the positive feelings come from, whether from endocannabinoids or from endorphins. If you are quitting some drug and fighting the addiction, we always advocate doing something positive to replace that euphoric feeling, and moderate exercise has proven, and continues to prove, to be an effective alternative to a chemical “high.” So instead of wanting to pick up another joint when those withdrawal symptoms hit you, take a different tack and lace on some running shoes and go for a jog or very brisk walk. Even a short run or a long power walk can help you fight off those cravings in a way that will benefit your body and brain.


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