runner's high

You Wanna Get High, Man? Go for a Run.

For your health.
For your health. Photo: Bruce Chambers/The Orange County Register/Getty Images

We all have those asshole friends who forgo one more beer at the bar because they have to “wake up early tomorrow” to “go for a run” because they are training for a “marathon” or whatever. “I just love that runner’s high I get, man. The endorphins are crazy!” Okay, pal. See you out there.

But wait — maybe you actually should see them out there. A new study performed by researchers at the Central Institute of Mental Health at the University of Heidelberg medical school in Mannheim, Germany, found that the “runner’s high” that all our chipper friends are talking about is real, but it isn’t necessarily because of endorphins. It’s even better. The physical effects are a lot more like getting stoned. Runners: 0. You: 1.

The study, published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences, looked at mice and found that what we understand to be a runner’s high doesn’t actually come from endorphins, but instead endocannabinoids that the body naturally produces. Yes, cannabinoids, as in cannabis as in pot. These endocannabinoid molecules are small enough to pass from the blood to the brain, hit your pleasure receptors, and give you that high — the one endorphins have been getting the credit for. Endorphins are actually too large to pass through the blood-brain barrier, meaning that their impact on your body mostly comes from their ability to ease pain. Think of it this way: Endorphins are like Tylenol, and endocannabinoids are like, well, weed.

So you wanna get high but are all out of kush? Go for a run. Your body’s got naturally occurring cannabis to spare.

You Wanna Get High, Man? Go for a Run.