In case you’ve ever doubted your canine buddy was a born runner, researchers at the University of Arizona’s School of Anthropology in Tucson recently discovered that dogs actually get a “runner’s high” just like people doi.
Runner’s high is the term used to describe the positive feelings exercise can generate. Studies show natural chemicals produced by the body called endocannabinoids are elevated after extended running and cycling. These substances can change and improve moods, and probably play a role in creating runner’s high.
The Runner’s High Experiment Involved Humans, Dogs, and… Ferrets?
The researchers in Tucson set out to discover if somewhere along the way, certain species had become hard-wired to enjoy running. After all, neither humans nor pet dogs need to run to evade predators or chase down prey these days. But a certain percentage of people, and 99.9 percent of healthy dogs, really enjoy running and do it every chance they get.
The study leader, Dr. David A. Raichlen, a professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona, and his colleagues decided to evaluate the endocannabinoid response to running in animals that are known to run, and those that are not.
The natural non-runners chosen for the experiment were ferrets (who were adopted out into the community at the conclusion of the study). The natural runners selected were humans and dogs – 10 local Tucson residents who ran for exercise, and 8 dogs of various breeds.
The ferrets and dogs were trained using positive reinforcement to run on a treadmill. Then each person and animal ran on the treadmill for 30 minutes at about 70 percent of maximum heart rate. The people and dogs also walked on the treadmill for 30 minutes on another day, while the ferrets – who couldn’t quite master walking on the treadmill – sat out the session in their cages.
Blood was drawn once before the experiment began, and after each exercise session, so endocannabinoid levels could be measured.
Both the humans and dogs had significantly elevated levels of endocannabinoids after running – but not after walking.
The ferrets didn’t show an increase in endocannabinoid levels after running or resting. This indicates they received no neurobiological pleasure from running.
According to Dr. Raichlen, what the study proves is that our bodies – and the bodies of dogs – have evolved to supply a “reward response” when we engage in aerobic activity.
So lace up those sneakers, leash up Buddy or Bella, and make tracks. You were both born to run!