Endorphins, do you know what they are? They are the ones that provide a true feeling of well-being after physical activity. Domyos tells you everything about these molecules of happiness …
According to a large number of regular athletes, practicing physical activity provides a feeling of ecstasy, lightness, power … This state of well-being that follows training is possible thanks to endorphin. Discovered in 1975, endorphins are considered “opioids” since their action is similar to that of opium or morphine. True natural drugs, make athletes feel good, serene.
Sports and the Secretion of Enforphins
Endorphins are molecules released by the brain, and particularly by the hypothalamus and pituitary. The activity that releases the most endorphins is undoubtedly sports, and that for several hours after exertion.
It is a natural morphine produced by our body. Once secreted, it is dispersed in the central nervous system, in the body’s tissues and in the blood. The amount of endorphins produced by our body depends on the intensity, duration and nature of physical activity. Thus, cross-country sports are what secrete more endorphins than other practices: running, cycling, swimming, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sports in a cardio training gym, aerobics, step…
To optimize the release of endorphins, it is necessary to exert an effort of about 30 to 45 minutes over a comfortable background rhythm, which allows you to carry on a conversation, at more than 60% of your respiratory capacities. The amount of endorphins released can in this case reach 5 times that of rest! Pure pleasure!
The Effects of Endorphins on Athletes
Endorphins have been shown to have similar morphine or opium effects on the body. Sport enables these effects to be activated, leaving athletes with a feeling of well-being. The latter describe the sensations they perceive after about thirty minutes of effort and after training as a moment of euphoria, of power, of effortless movement, of ecstasy.
First, sports practice has, like morphine, anxiolytic effects, that is, it cancels out negative emotions and feelings. Consequently, regular athletes tend to experience less stress than non-athletes. However, to reduce anxiety, you need to exercise at 70% of your maximum heart rate for at least 20 minutes. These effects can last up to 6 hours after the effort.
Secondly, endorphins reduce the sensation of pain thanks to its analgesic effects. Its release causes an increase in the pain threshold and that, for 4h after secretion. The inhibition of muscle and tendon pain allows athletes to maintain their performance, but because of this, some signs of heart attack can also be masked, with serious consequences.
Finally, endorphins limit hot flashes during exertion and exhaustion by moderating cardiac and respiratory functions.
With all the beneficial effects that endorphin secretion brings, regular athletes sometimes have the feeling of being hooked on their practice. This dependence is not physical since endorphins are quickly destroyed by the body’s enzymes, however, it is psychological. Athletes are hooked on the feeling of pleasure that their activity provides. They have a very strong effective relationship with it, which is why it is often unbearable to have to leave it.
However, it is important to know that sport, thanks to endorphins, only reduces the external manifestations of a light or moderate depression, which does not allow treating it itself. Consulting a psychotherapist is still essential.