The feeling of well-being, freedom and energy that runners experience is not only due to endorphins. A study of theUniversity of Montreal Hospital Research Center shows that this phenomenon is also caused by dopamine, a neurotransmitter that activates motivation.
Hunger motivates you!
“We discovered that the rewarding effect of endurance is modulated by leptin, a key metabolic hormone. Leptin inhibits physical activity via dopamine neurons in the brain.” Explains Stephanie Fulton, a researcher at L’University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre. Indeed, there are leptin receptors on dopaminergic neurons and when leptin binds to these receptors, a biochemical reaction is set in motion, preventing the imminent release of dopamine. Leptin thus prevents the activation of the motivational neurotransmitter, dopamine.
Secreted by adipose tissue, leptin helps control the feeling of satiety. The more leptin you have, the lower your appetite. This hormone also influences physical activity. This hormone plays a crucial role in the motivation to run, because it is linked to the search for food. The lower it is, the more motivated you will be. When food is scarce and you are hungry, running (hunting) is a necessity.
The hormonal signals that modulate hunger and exercise are apparently closely related. Endurance capacity in mammals and particularly humans has evolved to maximize the chances of finding food. Leptin regulates energy balance and encourages the idea of reward for metabolism: engaging in physical activity in order to find food.
The lower the leptin levels, the higher the performance will be. This molecule is also involved in the feeling of accomplishment when practicing physical activity. Low leptin levels increase motivation to exercisemaking this “runner’s well-being” more accessible.