If you feel great after running, it’s probably due to the fact that you know you’ve done something good for yourself and because you’ve unleashed brain chemicals called endorphins that are powerful mood enhancers. However, scientists at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre have published a study showing that runner’s high is also likely due to a hormone called leptin.
Endorphins are known to play a role in runners’ high. However, the role of leptin is a surprise. Leptin is a hormone fat tissue releases that’s involved in how full we feel after eating. But the study found that leptin plays a role in the motivation to run. High levels of leptin inhibit people from wanting to run. Lower levels seem to drive the desire to run.
“We speculate that for humans, low leptin levels increase motivation to exercise and make it easier to get a runner’s high,” says Stephanie Fulton, a co-author of the study, which was published in the journal Cell Metabolism.
The leptin-exercise connection could be an evolutionary trait that is linked to the urge to find food, the authors noted.