Have you ever seen people bopping their head and jamming out to their Ipod as they leave Pottruck? Or dancing on their way down the steps? Doing any form of physical exercise that lasts at least thirty minutes at a moderate level stimulates an endorphin release from your brain. When you run, skip, jump, skate, or perform any sport that makes your muscles work, gates in your body open up to an influx of chemicals that trigger a series of positive reactions. By increasing your heart rate, blood vessels start pumping oxygen to fuel your body. This increased respiration rate, followed by sweating (and sometimes panting!) triggers a release of Catecholamines (scientifically known as Epinephrine). This is known as the “happy chemical” that releases endorphins.
This explains why Marathon runners are happy even after they race – they just ran 26 miles for cryin’ out loud! Immediately following intense exercise, athletes may describe their current state as euphoric because of this chemical release. As well, the sensory organs in our body like skin and hair send messages to the brain in Central Nervous System that actually blocks receptors to pain. But what does that actually mean? Substance P (which causes pain) is blocked during the endorphin release, meaning your brain may be receiving signals of pain but your body does not FEEL it. Despite the sore calf muscles that runners experience the next couple of days, hours after the run they will feel elated and without a bit of pain.
If you are an extreme athlete and tend to feel sore and crash immediately after exercising, your body is physically fatigued. The body endured too much stress and surpassed the endorphin release by moving on to release other hormones that signal too much stress. This can gradually weaken your immune system so be careful if you are constantly exhausted after working out.
All in all, work out in moderation and try not to overdue it. You want to be de-stressed after exercising, not stressed out. Just as our favorite Harvard graduate Elle Woods said in Legally Blonde: “Exercise gives you endorphins–endorphins make people happy and happy people just don’t shoot their husbands… they just don’t.”
By Nikki Pepperman