2001-Wed Mar 01 10:51:57 MST 2017
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
You’ve probably heard of or experienced “runner’s high.” It’s a powerfully positive mood that typically follows a long, hard run. You feel on top of the world, ready to face any challenges. In fact, you often feel so good that you can’t wait until your
That runner’s high is an awesome emotion — and one of the reasons why I love endurance sports. Well, it turns out that your dog experiences the same feelings.
A recent study published in the
Journal of Experimental Biology found that humans and
dogs share the release of powerful, mood-altering chemicals after running. Researchers at the University of Arizona compared species that evolved as long-distance hunters and gatherers — namely humans and dogs — with more sedentary ferrets (they spend 14 to 18 hours a day snoozing!) to see if there was a difference in the brain compounds associated with the runner’s high.
They ran and walked each test subject, measuring before-and-after blood levels of endocannabinoids, the neurochemicals believed to be a major reason behind that runner’s high. If that word looks familiar to you, it’s because endocannabinoids are the body’s natural version of the active component in
cannabis or marijuana. Now you understand the “high” part.
The researchers evaluated 10 humans, eight dogs and eight ferrets. They compared endocannabinoid (eCB) anandamide levels before and after
walking or running on a treadmill for 30 minutes.
In the graph at left, the white bars represent pre-exercise anandamide, while the black bars indicate post-fast run levels. You can see that both humans and dogs experience a spike in the pleasurable brain chemicals following a high-intensity run. Ferrets not so much.
Interestingly, the same surge in pleasurable potions wasn’t observed after the 30-minute treadmill walks in any species. It really is a runner’s high, not a “walker’s buzz.”
The runner’s high is an important evolutionary tool because it encourages certain species to push harder, run longer or search farther. Even if you’re tired or hungry, you need to keep going, and then you have to do it all over again. If there was no reward system for these grueling efforts, chances are that humans would have been replaced at the top of the food chain by bears — or my
Many endurance athletes have a hard time recollecting specific pain or suffering during long events, which is probably similar to the amnestic effect that the hormone oxytocin has on childbirth. It’s been said that if women could remember the pain of childbirth, they’d never have another child. I’m guessing that’s why I continue to do Ironman events, and why my forefathers got up each morning and set out to find food and avoid death.
Since man and dog co-evolved, it was beneficial that we both “enjoyed” roaming farther and hunting harder. We are a perfect pair when it comes to collaborating in the wild. To me, this study simply validates why dogs became man’s best friend and humans became cat’s best servant.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Get all the best pet news and information sent right to your inbox!
Thank you for subscribing!
Dogs and cats help improve our mental,
social and physical health — and we
have the science to prove it!
We asked our readers to share the funny
things and skillful tricks their dogs will do
to get Milk-Bone® Pill…
It’s more than just cute when your kitty
naps in a box — it’s an instinctive
behavior that’s hardwired in her…
Herding dog, search-and-rescue dog, guide dog, police dog, farm dog — you name it, the German Shepherd can do it.
Check out our collection of more than 250 videos about pet training, animal behavior, dog and cat breeds and more.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.