Get High on Your Endorphins
Ever wondered why you feel so good after a hard gym session or why you get that exhilarating rush whilst on a rollercoaster? The answer is endorphins and they have all manner of effects on the body.
Endorphins are chemicals that are produced in the Pituitary Gland when exercising, excitement or pain is experienced and they send signals to target cells in order to evoke a certain response. They produce a feeling of well being, as well as suppressing pain and effecting metabolic responses.
Change in Mood State
Exercise can help you recover from depression and prevent you from becoming depressed in the first place. Becoming fitter and healthier can boost your self-confidence and self-esteem. More than that, each time you exercise you are physically creating endorphins that improve your mood and suppress the negative effects of stress.
When endorphins are released during exercise it suppresses the release of cortisol (a major stress hormone). Prolonged high levels of cortisol have been known to cause blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia. It can also decrease bone density and muscle tissue. High cortisol levels also cause high blood pressure and increased abdominal fat, which is associated with a greater amount of health problems than fat deposited in other areas of the body. Do you ever crave chocolate when you feel a bit low or stressed? That is because endorphins are actually stimulated by chocolate! They are also released when eating chillis but I know which one I’d prefer.
Endorphins have the ability to suppress pain. When we exercise we produce lactic acid. I’m sure you’ve all felt ‘the burn’ when lifting weights or when sprinting. Most of the studies look at endorphin concentration with regards to the duration or intensity of the exercise being undertaken. Physical exercise that progressively gets harder causes endorphin concentrations to increase accordingly but endorphins increase exponentially when anaerobic threshold has been exceeded and when lactic acid levels are high. If you are training at these levels without pain it’s because your endorphins are kicking in but if you are experiencing pain it’s a very easy system to train.
Your lactate threshold – your ability to work at your maximal aerobic capacity is easily improved through Fartlek or Tabata training. These training techniques work on speed play to switch the body between exercising aerobically and anaerobically. It pushes your lactate threshold higher, therefore improving anaerobic fitness.
There are four types of endorphins and each can influence hormonal and metabolic response to exercise. One term ‘Runners High’ or ‘exercise induced euphoria’ is one example of this. Instead of runners feeling tired after a run lasting over one hour, they actually feel euphoric. Relatively new research is showing that endorphins change ventilatory regulation during exercise. Endorphins slow breathing, therefore affect carbon dioxide levels. This means it takes the body longer to reach its anaerobic threshold.
Endorphins also modulate appetite and can bring about satiety, which could explain why some people lose their appetite or are unable to eat as much after exercising. Endorphins have also shown to have a positive effect on the immune system. When endorphins are released they activate our natural killer cells thereby improving our body’s defences.
Once again it has been proven that exercise has such major positive effects on our body. Exercise physically stimulates us to produce chemicals that help us cope with the daily stress of life. Not only those, these self-made chemicals also suppress pain, naturally boost our immune system and improve our feeling of wellbeing. Endorphins truly are natural highs!