Endorphins – The Physiological and Psychological Ecstasy of Exercise
Endorphins – the healthiest high of all…Runners high. Our body’s own special brew created from genuine, physiological ecstasy. Endorphins (translated = endogenous morphine) are neurotransmitters produced in the pituitary gland & hypothalamus creating a euphoric reward in response to physical activity – two obvious “endorphinators” being physical activity & orgasm. But rest assured, this exercise induced Happy Place, is not just for runners.
Many studies have shown endorphins are released more in response to completing a physical challenge from both the physiological & psychological sense of accomplishment. So contrary to the implication of runners high – the intensity of the activity although assumed as the big endorphinator – helps – but is secondary to the physical & psychological reward of accomplishment.
Good thing. I have witnessed repeatedly those with compromised health, those that are less conditioned still can reap the exhilaration of neurotransmitter nirvana – creating that beautiful calling from within. Just like we are motivated, drawn to repeated sexual pleasure, us fitness faithfuls keep coming back for more, further, driven harder to outperform ourselves – the healthiest competition of all – to set our own world’s record.
Exercise is the one prescription for so many of our current chronic plagues – and has no bad side effects. How many medications can lay the same claim? Depression, heart disease, cancers, diabetes, disease prevention, obesity…..all benefit from exercise, yet still remains the most underutilized treatment of all. No – its not a quick fix – the psychological & physiological healing powers of exercise require a fidelity – a commitment to building a healthy relationship with ourselves.
The Par Q is the Canadian government’s “Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire” ( proudly shared now by a number of countries) a series of questions if one is capable of adopting an exercise program – yes I get the necessity – however – we do know that physical inactivity is our #1lifestyle killer. This begs the question – why do we not have a questionnaire for physical inactivity? Why do we intimidate people from getting active?
Every elite athlete will agree, performance is a team effort. In order for exercise to echo its calling – it needs a well functioning inner ecosystem. Its heartbreaking as an exercise enthusiast to hear people say “I tried exercise it did nothing for me” – ouch! Exercise is severely thwarted ( I have a better word but not going to use it!) in its ability to endorphinate when the rest of the ecosystem is is being held hostage by poor nutrition, excessive alcohol, food addictions such as sugar, salt and saturated fat, smoking & uncontrolled stress.
Again as a fitness lover, I find one of the most frustrating misconceptions about a devotion to health centricity is that a healthy lifestyle is one that is restrictive and based on deprivation & sacrifice.
Let’s take a look here….
An addiction is repetition of a behavior – despite its potentially destructive properties – it insidiously takes control of our actions, rendering a person feeling helpless. The craving to smoke, being drawn to fast & addictive foods, believing alcohol is a means of dealing with stress…these are all instant gratifications created by unfortunate coping mechanisms over time. Being submissive to a dominant force?
Now – whats the definition of slavery? Submission to a dominating influence. Its kind of like having the boss from hell over your entire being!
However thanks to sciences such as neuroplasticity, nutrigenomics our bodies are by far the most enigmatic specimens of all. I am convinced there is the gravitational field (the field of force surrounding a body of finite mass (us) in which another body would experience an attractive force (a healthier us) – yes I hate physics too – I only like it on the Big Bang Theory!
Being creatures of nature – our inner ecosystem craves homeostasis – always gravitating toward an orderly, productive existence. Our healthful call from within – the evolutionary purpose of neurotransmitter nirvana is to keep bringing us back to our peaceful, well functioning ecosystem. Call it habits for habitat!
I have yet to meet an ex smoker pine away for their smokers cough or a “successful loser” regret that 50 pound fat loss. I have many times witnessed in others (and experienced myself!) regret from indulging in poor food choices & that yuck feeling of lack of physical activity. In my many years of health coaching – I have had the great fortune of watching first hand, hundreds of times the – out with the old in with the new – breaking the chains of succumbed behaviors with the passionate pursuit of a peaceful inner ecosystem. That healthful calling from within – which guides us to happy homeostasis, self respect & empowerment- is no sacrifice at all, its pure liberation, freedom & exhilaration.