Runner's High: 4 Reasons Why Runners Are Actually Happier People

by Dan Scotti

The physical benefits of running are pretty well-defined, no pun intended. Runners are known to be more physically toned, sure, but what about the other aspects of their well-being? Although you may not know it, runners are inherently happier than their non-running counterparts.

As we’ve all heard before, our health is all “connected,” you know – the whole “mind-body” thing. By taking care of your own body, you should then, in turn, be taking care of your mind too.

Keeping that in mind, happiness is a whole different beast. People spend their entire lives searching for this thing called “happiness,” could it be that their answer is right under their feet (literally)?

After researching running from a scientific standpoint, the link between running and happiness became more apparent.

As the fall is just getting into full swing, now seems to be the perfect time to explore this link for yourself, outside, surrounded by the golden autumn foliage. So, introduce yourself to the science here, below, and then pick up a pair of shoes and go live it.

It can revamp your social life.

Aside from the benefits coming from the more obvious physical aspects of running, the social elements should not be overlooked. By training for a race of some sort, or simply taking up running as a hobby, you have already joined a “community” – perhaps without knowing.

While running alone is surely not an unfavorable situation by any stretch, there are certain benefits to making the most of the “running community” you find yourself a part of. According to About Health, running in a group can promote improved performance across a variety of different fields.

Group running provides constructive competition that will have you pushing your limits. Running with partners will also help ensure that you don’t slack on your own commitment. By maintaining friendships within your own local “running community,” you’ll quickly expand your social circle in the process.

It gives you a runner's high.

According to the New York Times, “yes, running can make you high.” It’s not uncommon that you’ve heard that before, is it? The age-old urban legend of the “runner’s high” has probably been boasted about to you by a physical education teacher at some point or another.

However, the science behind the phenomenon proves to be a lot harder to come by. As Gina Kolata writes, the origin of the “runner’s high” is a series of chemicals known as endorphins. Endorphins are naturally occurring opiates in the brain. Endorphin release will usually leave us feeling “euphoric.”

According to Kolata, there’s a direct relationship between the amount of running, or exercise as a whole, and endorphin release. In other words, the more you exercise, the more endorphins are released – or – the more you run, the happier you’ll feel. So why settle for less?

It produces antibodies.

According to HowStuffWorks, both running and happiness spur the production of antibodies – proteins synthesized by our immune systems. Antibodies are elementary components of our immune systems, and play crucial roles in the prevention of illness.

As Tom Scheve writes, sad or depressed people are far more susceptible to sickness when compared to happier people. Interestingly enough, anxiety puts people at a higher risk for diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

Happiness has been proven to increase antibody production by 50 percent, and running by up to 300 percent. Ultimately, when you run, you are in effect improving your happiness through a number of different ways and systems.

It manages stress.

Exercise is among the most efficient ways to combat stress that are available to us. One of the ways running can control your own stress levels is through curbing the release of cortisol. Essentially, when we’re stressed, our cortisol levels are high.

However, while it would seem that an “anti-cortisol” pill or supplement would then be the answer to all our stress-related problems with a girlfriend, or work, obviously nothing is that simple. See, cortisol, for the most part, is a beneficial aspect of our bodily function.

According to Competitor, running provides us with a route to moderating our own levels of cortisol. By ensuring that our cortisol levels are high enough to maintain immune function, but low enough to avoid stress, running helps us find the optimal level of cortisol for our own happiness.

Photo Courtesy: Tumblr