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What Are Endorphins?

Runners often experience endorphins.
Endorphins have much the same effect on the body as morphine.
A lengthy cross-country session can be a great way to release endorphins.
Engaging in physical intimacy is a natural way of producing endorphins.
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  • Last Modified Date: 03 July 2014
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Endorphins are chemicals, called peptides, that are made in the body. They have much of the same effect on a person as opium or morphine. As a result, they actually lower the feeling of pain in the body and can create a feeling of bliss or euphoria. They are often created and released when a person exercises; becomes excited; or even eats certain foods, such as spicy peppers or chocolate.

Generally, endorphins work by attaching themselves to receptors that are designed to decrease the feeling of pain. As a result, once the chemicals are released, people can perform activities that may once have been impossible because of body pain. For example, a runner may be able to run longer distances once the endorphins attach to the receptors to relieve the feeling of pain in her legs or knees.

The body makes about 20 types of endorphins. Although researchers are still studying how they affect the body, they believe that beta-endorphins provide the strongest feeling of euphoria. Once it is released, it prevents the body from signaling pain. In fact, many researchers believe that beta-endorphins block the feeling of pain in people who undergo extreme trauma. For example, if a person were to sever her arm, she may not feel the pain immediately because the signal that would normally express pain was blocked.

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Not only are endorphins thought to block the sensation of pain, but they also work to lower stress levels and support the immune system. Some studies have indicated that they can cause certain cells, called natural killer cells, to be triggered. Once those cells are stimulated, they work to fight cancer cells. As a result, some researchers believe that chemicals may be used to lower the likelihood of developing cancer or to help fight the disease.

The best exercises to create and release endorphins include running, biking, swimming, and cross-country skiing, especially if these activities are performed for long periods of time. Once the chemicals are released, an athlete may experience a sudden spike in her energy level. The spike may vary from person to person, particularly regarding when it will occur and how long it will last. For example, the spike in her energy could happen after exercising for 25 minutes or it may not happen until she exercises for an hour. Some researchers have even linked laughter to the release of endorphins, making laughter an important factor in human wellness.

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anon262290
Post 14

Cayenne pepper is amazing. I feel completely warm and euphoric when I take it with my lemon and maple syrup mixture. I thought I was having a spiritual experience but it's the the cayenne releasing endorphins. Awesome!

Sinbad
Post 13

I love comedy movies and shows. I think this love for comedies has to do with the fact that laughter can create lots of endorphins. If I need a quick boost in mood, I turn on a funny show, movie, or talk to a funny friend.

I also get a great boost in mood from exercising, but it takes longer, and does not last as long, as when I am laughing about something.

I sometimes have to mentally and physically prepare myself for working out, especially if I haven't done it in a while. With laughing, there is no mental or physical preparation required!

Laughter, for me at least, really is the best medicine.

Laughter can also give you a bit of a workout, if something is funny enough to you, which can be a double high right there. Sometimes when I work out I watch comedies, which is also a double high, which helps boost my mood and forget about the pain.

I am lucky that a lot of different things make me laugh, so my body creates endorphins on a daily basis.

snickerish
Post 12

@bluespirit - I think that is what makes some people "runners" as it seems some people just naturally enjoy and gravitate towards running activities where some people can give running their best shot and never enjoy it.

The other thing that I think make some people "runners" is body type. Some body types just seem to be made to run and they don't ever have major pains while running while other people have knee or other running related pain throughout their running career.

But I definitely think the endorphins in exercise are great and help make it worth at - but also try and make exercising fun - just think about it, you might have a double endorphin rush if you are laughing and exercising at the same time.

bluespirit
Post 11

It is great to hear that people have commented that they felt a release of endorphins when they gave birth. I have not ever given birth and I still have to say if there was ever a time for endorphins to be released it should be then!

Someone once asked me how to release endorphins through running because I was telling them about "runner's high" which is what people call the endorphin release you get when you run.

My answer was that it just happens, but for my husband and me it seems to happen at different times. First it takes a few weeks of training before he ever gets those endorphins, and for me the endorphins come at the end of my run, but I almost always have one.

Needless to say my husband has found that he does not enjoy running while I do, and I bet it is because of the endorphin release difference.

mabeT
Post 10

I love that chocolate releases endorphins more than I can actually put into words! Let me tell you, I think chocolate should win a Nobel Prize and now we know why. It makes you feel super duper good!

It seems like this is actually potentially a healthy sort of thing to pursue, although I will say that enough of anything is enough. But isn’t it great to hear that something that tastes like heaven can also have a positive effect on our bodies?

I’ve actually been hearing more and more good things about both chocolate and coffee, which have both been made into health enemies over the last few years. It seems that they both can actually benefit the human body when used in moderation largey due to stimulating endorphin release.

Common sense, much? Maybe so, but we seem to need scientists to tell us what people have known for centuries in this day and age.

nanny3
Post 9

@icecream17 – I love what you’re getting at about physical education starting off the beginning of the school day! As a former teacher myself, I can absolutely say that beginning my high school classes with a short physical activity or game always helped my students focus.

It’s common sense, in a way, whether it’s actually endorphins doing what they do or not. No one feels like focusing on their work if all they’ve done all morning is sit and focus on other work. As they say, all work and no play make Jack a dull boy.

We need to quit going around our elbows to get to our thumbs in this country when it comes to education. Why must we recreate the wheel every other year? After all, look at who is being more successful educationally speaking; Japan or the USA?

It probably is chemical, but that’s natural! Instead of fighting it and imposing impossible tasks and rules, why not utilize what comes naturally!

Don't fight it, baby! Enjoy what God give us!

fify
Post 8

My sister is an acupuncture expert. She taught me about two spots on the body, that when you press on them with your fingers, your body releases endorphins and relieves pain.

One spot is on top of the hand, roughly between the area where the thumb and index finger end. The other one is below the eyebrows, right on top of the eye. I use the second spot a lot when I have migraines and headaches. When pain relievers don't work, this does. I press on this spot with two fingers for both eyes for about eight seconds. Immediately, I feel relief, it's really amazing.

mutsy
Post 7

@Icecream17 - It does sound like a good idea. I just wanted to comment that some people do get addicted to releasing endorphins. These endorphin junkies sky dive and go on the craziest roller coasters.

Some of these people do triathlons like the Iron man triathlon. I wish I could be more adventurous like that.

icecream17
Post 6

@SauteePan - You know I have heard of women feeling like that especially after childbirth because it is such an amazing experience. I have to say that I love running.

For me it really raises the serotonin levels in my brain in order for me to relax. They also say that exercise raises the dopamine levels which are linked to enhanced memory and attention.

In fact, I read that in Japan, the children start their day with physical education for this very reason. They feel that if the children start with physical education they will be more likely to be able to focus and improve their cognitive skills while at school.

It is really not a bad idea and something that we should consider in the United States. Physical education also helps kids become happier which could also be a definitely plus and would probably reduce the amount of bullying in our schools.

SauteePan
Post 5

I have to say that I know that I was experiencing a release of endorphins of love when I had both of my children. Although the pain was significant, the joy that I experienced was so amazing that it helped me overcome the pain.

I think that the excitement that I experienced when my children were about to be born really caused me to significantly control my pain. It was an amazing experience.

JaneAir
Post 4

@KaBoom - That does help explain the tanning craze a bit. Although, I think for some people it's mostly about looking tan, not feeling good.

I'm really interested in the idea that endorphins can fight cancer. There are so many different things that cause endorphin release, and it's really interesting to think that exercising can help prevent cancer in the long run.

Also, I think it would be easy for researchers to look into this. Endorphins aren't controversial like some other avenues of research like stem cells.

KaBoom
Post 3

I've read in several different places that tanning a tanning bed actually releases endorphins. And in fact, some tanners actually become addicted to tanning and the endorphin release they get from it!

I think this explains a lot. I've never been into tanning, because I know it's really bad for you. I just don't understand why people do it, knowing they may get cancer from it. However, once I found out that tanning can make people feel euphoric because of the endorphin release, I understood it a bit better.

julies
Post 2

Being a big chocolate lover, I love knowing that eating chocolate can be beneficial for endorphins being released.

To know that there is actually scientific evidence that supports this is even more reason to indulge in chocolate on a regular basis - in moderation of course.

I am not much of an exerciser, so love to know that I can receive the benefits of endorphins without exercising every day.

The best times are when I am together with my friends and we are doing a lot of laughing and have some chocolate. What a perfect combination to take advantage of those endorphins. That is a win-win situation all the way around.

I also like to give my friends some special chocolate when they are feeling down or need some encouragement. Next time I will also let them know some of the endorphin benefits they can receive when eating chocolate.

andee
Post 1

I exercise regularly 5-6 times a week for 40 to 60 minutes at a time. I can always tell when the endorphins kick in and I never get tired of that feeling.

For me, I have to exercise for about 20 minutes straight before I feel that extra shot of energy that I know is the endorphins. I have never had my endorphin levels tested, but know I can really tell a difference if I don't exercise for awhile.

I find that it is much easier to handle daily stress when I have a regular release of endorphins in my body.

There are so many benefits to regular exercise, and the release of endorphins is just one reason I am persistent at it.

From all the benefits that you can receive from just the release of endorphins, would be a good reason for people to begin an exercise program.

I have also found that they are a little bit addicting. Whenever I exercise, I expect to feel that 'high' that will stay with me for hours after I am done.

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