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Workout Mood Highs | Why Exercise Makes You Happy (It’s Not Endorphins) – Thomas DeLauer
If I could feel like I feel at the end of a workout all the time, I don’t think there’s anything that I wouldn’t be able to do. And I know that you know the feeling. I’m going to talk today about what actually makes you physically feel good and mentally feel good during and after a workout. And I’ve got a little bit of a teaser for you. It’s not endorphins.
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All right. Let’s talk about what makes you feel good in the brain when you’re working out, and if you know this, you’re going to start to learn how you can maximize and how you can capitalize on it. First and foremost, it’s not endorphins. Believe it or not, people always associate that runner’s high or that exercise high with endorphins, and a lot of studies have measured endorphins and we do know that endorphins elevate during a workout or during activity. But here’s the thing, endorphins don’t cross the blood-brain barrier.
They can help your body feel good, they can even help your organs function better, they can even better different catecholamines, they can help different actions within the body and they can help loosen you up, so they’re not a bad thing at all; they’re really good. But the blood-brain barrier, so they’re not affecting your mood. So what exactly is going on?
Well, it’s something completely different and it’s a whole different world, and it’s called anandamide. You see, anandamide is a neurotransmitter/endocannabinoid and what that means is that it acts on the body in a completely different way. You see, what endocannabinoid is just like the name implies. It works on the cannabinoid receptors in the body. We’re talking things like cannabis, we’re talking things like cannabidiol oil, the way that those make you feel? That’s the way that endocannabinoids work, and that’s why when you’re working out or when you’re running and you’re getting that runner’s high, you’re having that feeling. That feeling of bliss, that feeling of where there’s no pain.
And the whole idea behind that is that’s exactly what endocannabinoids do and that’s exactly what certain neurotransmitters do, is they block pain. In fact, the word anandamide comes from the Sanskrit word bliss. We’re literally talking about bliss, where you don’t feel pain, you don’t feel that stress. It’s really remarkable what exercise does in the way of anandamide, and here’s how it actually works in the body.
Anandamide increases something known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Now, I talk about this a lot. I think there’s probably 10 or 12 videos where I mention BDNF, but in this particular case, we’re going to talk about it from a slightly different angle. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor is brain fertilizer. It’s what helps grow new brain cells, but not only does it trigger the brain stem cells to produce new cells, it also protects the existing brain cells, which is exactly what we’re feeling when we’re getting that high, when we’re working out.
You see, a massive influx of calcium that is a response to stress whenever we’re working out is what’s triggering this. That massive increase in stress and that massive increase in calcium activates what are called transcription factors, and these transcription factors trigger the release of particular neurotransmitters that trigger more BDNF. All that has to do with this chain reaction, and when we have more BDNF, we have more neurons, which means we have more response to different things. We’re more in touch with ourselves, we feel more alive, we feel more alert.
But the cool thing is the protective process. What ends up happening is that BDNF protects the old neurons. It keeps them from dying, but it also makes them more resilient.
1) The Effects of Exercise on the Brain. (2017, November 18). Retrieved from http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/neuro/neuro05/web2/mmcgovern.html
2) The exercise effect. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/12/exercise.aspx
3) Physical Exercise for Treatment of Mood Disorders: A Critical Review. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5423723/
4) M, G. (n.d.). [Effects of exercise on anxiety, depression and mood]. – PubMed – NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15518309
5) Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Anxiety. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3632802/