America's Energy Doctor
I write often about the benefits of exercise, since there are so many and they’re so important. Regular exercise helps you stay at a healthy body weight, boosts your energy and mood, reduces your risk of lots of diseases, and so much more. This time, though, I want to talk about how exercise triggers the release of endorphins—and why you want that.
What Are Endorphins?
Endorphins are a chemical produced in the brain, spinal cord, and other parts of your body. They’re one of the group of compounds known as neurotransmitters. These are basically chemical messengers that communicate signals throughout the body via the central nervous system.
These particular neurotransmitters are responsible for sending signals that reduce feelings of pain and increase feelings of well being. In fact, endorphins are morphine-like compounds that produce effects similar to opiates. They’re released in response to emotional and physical stress and pain, including that induced by strenuous or prolonged exercise, and also during orgasm.
If you’ve ever experienced or heard of a “runner’s high,” a euphoric feeling that comes on after a serious run, that’s the endorphins at work. Some people do get a little hooked on this feeling, but physiologically speaking, you can’t get physically addicted to endorphins like you can to opiate drugs.
Benefits of Releasing Endorphins
The effect of endorphins is more than just making you feel kind of good. They take the edge off of pain, including chronic pain that may hold you back from day to day. Also, they reduce your stress and anxiety, decreasing associated symptoms and helping you focus and sleep better. Endorphins even elevate your mood, and have been show to help combat depression and other mood disorders.
Regularly stimulating the release of endorphins helps you become more proactive and accomplish more goals. They’re a key natural ally in the fight against chronic pain, fatigue, low mood, low energy, stress, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating that interfere with so many people’s daily lives.
How to Trigger Endorphins
Intense exercise is the best way to prompt your body to start pumping out endorphins. Of course, you have to work up to strenuous physical activity, especially if you’re not all that fit or have been sedentary lately. Talk to your doctor about starting off safely and building up gradually to the sort of extended, strenuous workouts that trigger significant endorphin release.
There are some other ways to get your body producing more endorphins, too. And you’ll find these are generally enjoyable activities anyway, with all sorts of physical, mental, and emotional health benefits:
- Try aromatherapy with pleasant scents like vanilla and lavender
- Get a massage (combine it with the above for an extra boost)
- Laugh—watch funny videos, hang out with your most entertaining friends, etc.
- Have sex—as mentioned above, orgasm releases endorphins
- Eat a little dark chocolate, which is an antioxidant-rich healthy snack
- Listen to your favorite music, especially if it’s uplifting