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July 2, 1982

The Runner's High: Fact or Fiction?

Author Affiliations

Harvard Medical School Boston

JAMA. 1982;248(1):24. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03330010012005

During the last decade, running has become the leading athletic pastime of an estimated 20 million adult Americans. Accordingly, much attention has been focused recently on the physiological and psychological benefits of this sport. One of the more intriguing, if poorly understood, benefits is what is now commonly referred to as the "runner's high," a state of euphoria allegedly experienced by trained distance runners and possibly related to exercise-induced β-endorphin secretion. This elusive entity has been widely proclaimed in running magazines, and even respected medical journals have lent credence to its existence.1

I submit that in fact there is no such thing as the "runner's high," elevation of plasma β-endorphin levels notwithstanding. It probably started out as a figment of someone's imagination and has become a myth perpetuated largely by those who stand to gain financially from it—such as manufacturers of running gear and publishers of books or magazines