Last month, a revolutionary pop up shop opened in central Amsterdam, where people could swap drugs for sportswear. Why? Because you don’t need drugs to get high – the same feel-good substances are released in your brain when you work out.
Swedish sports fashion brand Björn Borg is encouraging people to look further than the superficial advantages of exercise – and embrace the mental health benefits.
LET’S ASK THE SCIENTIST
Senior lecturer in cognitive neuroscience, Lennart Högman, takes a break from his lectures at Stockholm University to present to us his research on Exerhighs:
HOW DO I GET AN EXERHIGH?
According to research, we are more likely to reach euphoric feelings if we do long, continuous and rhythmical exercises. That means that aerobic workouts, such as running or cycling are preferred over heavy lifting at the gym.
After 30-45 minutes of running, the pain-relieving effect caused by endorphins, can be equal to a typical dose of morphine.
If you’re not into running, you can also try other cardio workouts, and everything from an indoor cycling class to a tough HIIT workout should theoretically work but has to be studied further.
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE BRAIN WHEN WORKING OUT?
When you are physically active, the brain increases the levels of a whole cocktail of chemical messengers used for communication between brain cells that play an important role in regulating your mood. These chemical messengers, so-called neurotransmitters, include cannabinoids, endorphins, dopamine and serotonin.
ARE THE EFFECTS OF EXERCISE COMPARABLE TO DRUGS?
Yes, intense exercise releases the same ”feel good chemicals” in your brain as some types of drugs.
That’s what puts your mind in that euphoric state! For instance, 45 minutes of running might gives you the same dose of pain relief of morphine. But of course, exercise is a much better mood inducer – both for the long and short term. And, unlike drugs, it’s good for your brain and cognitive functions.