Why endorphins and exercise make us happy…


Have you just finished your latest Jennis workout and you’re feeling buzzed? There’s a very good reason for that and it’s called an endorphin rush, as Jess discusses…

As a retired athlete, I’m passionate about staying fit and healthy, but I’ve always been just as interested in the brain benefits of exercise – and have been ever since I did my psychology degree.


With an increasingly busy life, circuit sessions are massively valuable on a personal level, too, giving me precious ‘me time’ and that feel-good feeling once I’m done. Here, I chat a bit more about why that is…

“While some people exercise to get fit, for just as many people it’s simply because it makes them happy”

So, Jess, what is an endorphin?
Endorphins (or Jendorphins, as we call them at Jennis Towers) produce a feeling of euphoria and are released in your body by exercise. These have a number of effects on your brain, reducing the perception of pain and triggering that post-workout elation, also known as the runner’s high. 


Ok, count us in. Where do I get some?
Studies suggest that the big endorphin rush happens after an hour of exercise, and running usually gets the most credit for giving you a ‘high’. But while long, hard workouts will get your endorphins flowing, new evidence suggests that you can still raise your endorphin levels with as little as 10 minutes exercise per week.


There’s a very strong link between activeness and happiness. So, even if you’ve had a really busy few days and the last thing you feel like doing is working out, one of my quick circuits, a run or walk is guaranteed to make you feel better.


There are other ways to boost endorphins in the body too, with researchers suggesting that eating dark chocolate or spicy food will have a similar (but less dramatic) effect.


In fact, while some people exercise to get fit, for just as many people it’s simply because it makes them happy.

“Eating spicy food can have a similar effect on endorphin levels, but nothing works as efficiently as exercise”

Is there any serious science behind it?
Digging a bit deeper, it’s been found that exercise can be as effective as medication and counselling in overcoming and even preventing anxiety and depression. "For some people it works as well as antidepressants," says Dr. Michael Craig Miller, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "In people who are depressed, neuroscientists have noticed that the hippocampus in the brain – the region that helps regulate mood – is smaller. Exercise supports nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, improving nerve cell connections, which helps relieve depression." 


I’m too busy. So I’ll miss out, right?
The term ‘runners high’ came about because long-distance running was fashionable in the 70s when scientists first discovered all this endorphin science stuff. If it was discovered today, it could just as easily be known as Zumba Rush or the Jennis buzz. Possibly…



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