A Natural High

By now, everyone has probable heard the saying, “Go take a run to blow off some steam”. Many people hold the belief that exercise can improve one’s mood. Speaking from a personal point of view, I have found this to be true. Nothing feels better than having a free hour to hit the gym after a long day of classes, homework, and studying. So, what is it about exercise that improves our moods?

According to CNN, when we spend time exercising, our body releases endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals that a part of the brain produces when our bodies are placed in stressful or painful situations. Psychologist J. Kip Matthews explains how endorphins are a sort of natural painkiller, because endorphins are produced by the body and work to reduce pain. Endorphins have been said to produce sort of a natural high, because of the good feeling that people get when endorphins are released throughout the body. Also according to CNN, a German study found that levels of endorphins in the body increase after a run. So, exercise releases endorphins which work to reduce pain in the body. This is likely to explain why people feel better after a tough workout. It seems that our bodies are trying to compensate for the pain that we feel while going through a rigorous workout or exercise circuit.

Two women running for exercise

One very interesting study, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health, attempted to prove that endorphins really do work to improve moods. Here’s a quick explanation of the study: The study was performed by gathering two groups of mice. One group was made up of very aggressive mice, while the other group was made up of timid mice. When placed together, the aggressive mice tended to bully the meeker mice. At first, the researchers did not allow the timid mice to run on the exercise wheel before interacting with the aggressive mice. When the timid mice were placed in the same area as the aggressive mice, the timid mice hid in the corners and acted very afraid. However, when the timid mice were given the chance to exercise before interacting with the aggressive mice, the timid mice no longer acted as afraid of the bigger mice. Instead, the timid mice simply tolerated the behavior of the larger, more aggressive mice. They no longer hid in the corners of the cage. The mice seemed to be in an overall better mood. I found this study to be extremely interesting, and the results of this experiment show that it is likely that endorphins do, indeed, improve the mood and overall well-being of living things. After exercising on the wheel, the timid mice were not as afraid of the larger mice, and they no longer felt threatened by their presence.


It is unlikely that the results of this experiment are due to chance, because time and time again, scientists have found that exercise, which releases endorphins, has a positive effect on people’s moods. I, for one, can attest to this. I strongly believe that there is nothing like a good workout at the gym to relieve stress, and make me feel better overall.

5 thoughts on “A Natural High

  1. Julia Rose Gallelli


    I can relate to your post because I am sort of a gym freak. The reason I go is to stay in shape, but also because of the feeling I get whilst working out and after working out. I feel the “natural high” from the release of endorphins from exercising.

    I have researched several articles in the past regarding the benefits of exercise. I found studies that showed academic improvement from studying while working out at a low intensity level. Our brains, in some cases, are able to retain more information or “make memories” once our bodies are aroused. They can then better encode the new information coming in as a result of the physical movement.

    For your interest, here is an article that discusses that very point:


    Overall, I thought your post was well organized, well supported, and informative. It is something many of us can relate to especially at this stage in our lives. College is mainly about hitting the books, and for many others (myself included), hitting the gym is pretty important too. These heavy late night junk food and beer diets are not going to work themselves off. Just sayin people…

  2. Dhaam Sakuntabhai

    Really nice topic. I definitely go to run or play sports to boost my mood. However, this article made me think that why despite all these good features; i am still lazy to go exercise? In case you also feel this way, here is an article that talks about saying why psychologist should use exercise in their therapy. This also talk about the reason why we are still lazy to do the exercises despite its benefits. http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/12/exercise.aspx

  3. Zachary Jacob Himel

    The gym is my go-to place whenever I am feeling stressed. It is well known that physical activity can make a person feel a lot better about themselves. On days I don’t make it to the gym, I feel sort of crappy. It is always uplifting to work up a sweat, and the natural relief is very noticeable. There are so many benefits to working out, such as sleeping better and an improved immune system. Here is an article that goes through ten of these benefits! http://www.askmen.com/top_10/fitness_top_ten/25_fitness_list.html

  4. Beom Joon Lee

    As a runner myself, I can agree that a nice run will relieve your stress. In addition to endorphin, running will also release another chemical in your brain called serotonin. Although serotonin has many function, one of it’s main function is it acts as a mood balancer. Low levels of serotonin can lead to depression. With aerobic exercises like running will raise your serotonin levels. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2077351/. This article speaks about ways of raising your serotonin levels and exercising is one of them.

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