Is a runner’s high real or a fitness legend?

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Chances are marathon runners, triathletes and weekend warriors have experienced the feeling of euphoria post-workout that’s known as the runner’s high. For those who have not enjoyed this result, it may seem like an allusive goal, but experts agree that this phenomenon is, in fact, real and achievable.

Richard Cotton, an exercise physiologist and national director of certification for the American College of Sports Medicine told Women’s Health magazine that scientists don’t fully understand why people experience a runner’s high, but there are a few theories. One is that endurance workouts like a long run or a marathon causes the brain to release endorphins, which are chemicals that can cause of euphoric feeling. Another theory is that there’s a surge of adrenaline that happens that boosts mental and physical energy.

“It can have almost a meditative aspect to it, like you’re in a zone where your breathing and pace all line up and makes your run feel effortless,” Cotton said.

Runner’s World also noted that body-released pleasure chemicals known as endocannabinoids¬†respond to stress, so an intense run at 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate can cause these to release (this is about 142 to 161 beats per minute for a 30-year-old).

How to achieve a runner’s high?

According to Shape magazine, two factors are needed to experience a runner’s high. The first in intensity. A quick, easy jog won’t get you there, but a challenging run will, especially if you include hills or speed intervals. The second factor is¬†duration. The source noted most people need to run for at least 20 minutes before it has any effect, so distance runners are more likely to achieve a runner’s high.

After long runs, it’s important to remember to cool down as part of athletic recovery to avoid injuries and sore muscles. In addition to stretching, it’s a good idea to give yourself a massage for back pain relief, to loosen up leg muscles and work out any knots.

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