ENDORPHINS: DOING SPORT IS A JOY!

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Do you know about endorphins? They are what produces that feeling of well-being after doing a physical activity. Domyos tells you all about these happiness molecules…

 

According to many regular athletes, doing a physical activity produces a feeling of ecstasy, lightness, and power… This state of well-being which follows training is made possible thanks to endorphins. Discovered in 1975, endorphins are considered "opioids" as they act similarly to opium or morphine. As natural drugs, they allow athletes to feel good and happy in their skin.

 

Sport and endorphin secretion

Endorphins are molecules released by the brain, more specifically by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. The activity that frees the most endorphins is without doubt sport, and this occurs several hours after exercise.

 

It is a type of natural morphine produced by our bodies. Once secreted, it is dispersed through the central nervous system, in the body's tissues and in the blood. The amount of endorphins produced by our bodies depends on the intensity, duration and nature of the physical activity. Therefore, endurance sports produce more endorphins than other sports: running , cycling, swimming, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, gym sports such as cardio training, aerobics, step

 

To optimise the release of endorphins, you must exercise for at least 30 to 45 minutes at a comfortable rate of endurance, so that you are able to hold a conversation, at more than 60% of your breathing capacity. The amount of endorphins released can reach 5 times that of when you are at rest! Sheer happiness!

 

The effects of endorphins on athletes

It has been proven that endorphins affect the body in a similar way to morphine or opium. Sport therefore triggers these effects, creating a feeling of well-being in athletes. They describe the feeling they experience after thirty minutes of exercise and after training as a moment of euphoria, power, moving without effort, and ecstasy.

 

Anxiolytic effects

First of all, sport, like morphine, has anxiolytic effects, that is it sends negative emotions and sensations to sleep. Consequently, regular athletes are often less stressed than those who do not exercise. However, to reduce anxiety you must exercise at 70% of your maximum heart rate for at least 20 minutes. These effects can last for up to 6 hours after exercise.

 

Analgesic effects

Secondly, endorphins help to reduce the feeling of pain thanks to their analgesic effects. Their release causes an increase in the pain threshold for 4 hours after their secretion. Pain inhibition in the muscles and tendons allows athletes to maintain their performances but, due to this, some signs of heart attacks can be masked, leading to serious consequences.

 

Anti-fatigue effects

Finally, endorphins limit shortness of breath during exercise and exhaustion by moderating cardiac and respiratory functions.

 

With all of the benefits that the secretion of endorphins brings, regular athletes often feel addicted to their sport. This dependence is not physical, as endorphins are destroyed very quickly by the body's enzymes, but rather psychological. Athletes are in effect tied to the feeling of pleasure produced by their sport. They have a very emotional relationship with it, which is why they often cannot bear to stop doing it.

 

However, you should be aware that sport, thanks to endorphins, only reduces light to moderate external manifestations of depression and, on its own, cannot treat depression. Consulting a psychotherapist therefore remains vital.

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