The human body is a miracle of nature. It can perform literally millions of tasks at any given moment, both at the surface and molecular level. It is also capable of performing reparative actions, ranging from repairing physical damages to combating viruses and even mending emotional and psychological wounds.
Back in the 1970s, scientists began to study a widely reported phenomenon known as runner’s (or rower’s) high. Apparently, during extreme sporting activities or long-distance runs, athletes experience a sense of euphoria, contentedness, general well-being, and anxiolysis. After extensive studies, researchers discovered that the brain secretes neuropeptides and endocannabinoids such as β-Endorphin, β-lipotrophin and anandamide to serve as a neurological reward for exercising the body. These chemicals also mask muscles and joint fatigue and increase pain tolerance (at levels higher than manufactured morphine). Interestingly, the chemical secretions surge noticeably in group settings. However, the blood–brain barrier prevents an accurate monitoring of the exact amount of chemicals produced during the aerobic intensive period.
While the full effect of the runner’s high only materialises once the body is subjected to heavy strain, the effects build up gradually. The gradual build up is useful, as it allows neuropeptides and endocannabinoids to be also secreted during low-level sporting activities, albeit at lower amounts. Nevertheless, it allows casual participants to experience the stress-reducing and mood-improving effects of endorphins and other chemicals.
Aside from that, sport also gives a sense of accomplishment to participants for meeting or exceeding challenges. The opportunity to socialise, develop friendships and establish a social identity also helps in improving self-confidence and creating a healthy body-image. All of the factors above collectively play a role in improving our sense of well-being.
However, social and natural environment can also create adverse effects for participants. Overly competitive social groups and negative peer pressure can lead to loss of confidence, social anxiety and social awkwardness which will adversely impact the well-being of participants, especially among the younger demographic.
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