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People often look at runners with admiration, wondering why she or he would get up at five in the morning and go for a run before a start of a stressful day. The answer of a runner would be: 'I need it!'. And yes, they need it.
Reason for that are endorphins- chemicals released by pituitary gland.
In this article I will present the benefits of running, what are endorphins, their action and effect on humans.

Benefits of running

Most people run because they want to stay in shape or because they want to achieve their ideal weight. Studies show that combination of diet and exercise is the most effective way to loose weight. Running is cardiovascular exercise that allows people to burn 100 calories per each mile she or he runs. The most important factor on the loss of calories is not how fast that person runs, but this person's weight. Most runners lose weight at first, but then their weight stabilizes.

Another, even more important reason for running is health. Running is cardiovascular exercise, which means its primary benefits are cardiovascular. Running strengthens heart: for example an inactive person beats 36,000 more times each day than that of a runner. Running namely keeps the arteries open and the blood flowing smoothly, which also helps lowering blood pressure: when person runs, arteries expand and contract more than usual, which contributes to their elasticity. Running also influences lung's potential, which is done by forcing the lungs to take deeper breaths and this way forcing them to use more tissue. Some doctors claim that even smokers can sometimes recover full lung potential through running.


Besides physical benefits there are also psychological advantages of running: because of endorphins release (more about that later) running is often used to treat clinical depression and other psychological disorders. Running works as natural tranquilizer: it namely makes person less depressed, tense and less confused or fatigued. Besides that, running is often used as self-hrlp to treat addictions, such as drugs and alcohol or even cigarettes.        

What are endorphins and how do they work?

When person runs, swims, cycles and performs any other strenuous exercise, pituitary gland releases endorphins: chemicals that release feeling of euphoria and that block sensations of pain. Endorphins are very closely linked to addictions, they were even discovered by accident when scientists were carrying out research on addictions and drugs. Researchers discovered that human brain contains its own neuro-chemicals, which are far more potent than heroin, opium and morphine. They also discovered that endorphins release in times of stress – in case of runners: after strenuous running. Endorphins make runner feel great after exercise and this effect is often referred as 'runner's high'. And it doesn't stop there: endorphins are also motivational. They namely help runner to feel energized throughout their whole day. 
There is no such sport as running – besides swimming and cycling, running it is the only sport, that elevates the leves of endorphins so high. For example, researchers from the Department of Health and Sports Science at the University of Richmond in the United States tried to determine whether weightlifting can also heighten endorphin levels, and the results showed that blood-endorphin levels were not different after weightlifting than before.    
Endorphins production occurs during and after strenuous exercise; during long, continuous workouts, when the level of intensity is between moderate and high, and breathing is difficult; when muscles use up their stored glycogen and begin functioning with only oxygen   
Running is not the only sport that produces endorphins. Other sports are are most likely to produce endorphins are cardiovascular exercises, like swimming, aerobics, bicycling,  cross-country skiing, long distance rowing, football, basketball, soccer.
Besides strenuous sport activities, clinical researchers reporte, that insertion of acupuncture needles into specific body points triggers the production of endorphins and that higher levels of endorphins were found in cerebrospinal fluid after patients underwent acupuncture.   

Endorphins addiction

Is that even possible? How can a person by doing something healthy like exercising become addicted?
It is possible and people do become addicted. This is a positive addiction, but still.
Exercise is a powerful drug: it takes us into Zen-like state and its power can be so strong that it can turn enthusiasts into addicts. And even though running or any other type of strenuous exercising is a very healthy habbit, it can turn into unhealthy addiction. Exercise abuse was first studied by Dr. William P. Morgan in 1979 and he discovered that that excessive exercise can cause physical and mental harm.
People who abuse exercise exhibit three common characteristics. They excessively rely on exercise. They continue to exercise when they are  injured or sick. They have withdrawal symptoms when exercise levels are decreased or temporarily halted. In short, they have typical symptoms of drug addiction and drug. Exercise becomes their number one priority in life: everything is scheduled around exercising- the same as with any other addition. They often feel out of control and become dependent on their workouts that they can't and won't stop, no matter what the cost. They often disregard warning signs of physical limitations and continue to work out and push themselves even when having high temperature or even pneumonia! The consequences of such behavior are serious and can lead to permanent physical disability.

Endorphins are not released only during strenuous exercising; endorphins are released:
  • during all pain, including behaviors like masochism;
  • by overexposure to light
  • laughter and tickling
  • stress 
  • sexual activity and orgasm
  • eating spicy foods
  • eating sweets (sweets rush)
  • during freeze or immobility
  • during acupuncture and shower massages and scalp massages, that may stimulate  acupressure points and scalp nerve endings
  • during crying
  • during calming music and during alpha rhythm drums
  • during stimulation of erogenous zones
At the end- running is beneficial, but everything good can turn into bad, if its 'consumption' is too high. Thus, run- it is healthy and good for you! But be careful not to turn this healthy and beneficial activity into night mare.