According to a study published in The Journal of Experimental Biology, our dogs enjoy a good run and aerobic exercise just as much as we do. In fact, our brain chemistry is wired to reward us for exercise. Researchers from the University of Arizona found that dogs, like humans, have an increased activation of endocannabinoids after running and high-levels of exercise. As the name suggests, endocannabinoids are natural, internal brain chemicals that affect the brain similarly to the active ingredient in marijuana – creating a lasting sense of well-being and a potent feeling of pleasure. Endocannabinoids or eCBs are neurotransmitters that target receptors in the reward region of the brain giving the effect of what we know as a “runner’s high.”
Blood tests were given to the subjects to check plasma eCB levels following low and high-intensity activity. The tests showed that the levels were stronger after running versus walking. In essence, both humans and dogs naturally feel the incentive of a good run because of the eCBs that are set in motion during and after exercise. This can include rewards such as pain and anxiety reduction and an overall sense of wellbeing and good health.
Interestingly, the same study was administered with a ferret group (non-cursorail mammal) which showed no change in its eCB levels during any of the test periods. Dogs and humans are wired to run, but ferrets – not so much.
So, lace up those sneakers, leash up Fido or Bella, and make tracks. You were both born to run!
Raichlen D, Foster A, Gerdman G, et al. Wired to run: exercise-induced endocannabinoid signaling in humans and cursorial mammals with implications for the ‘runner’s high’. The Journal of Experimental Biology. 2012 April 15; 215: 1331-1335.