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What Kind of Activity Releases Endorphins?

Helena Reimer
Helena Reimer

Any type of physical activity that causes pain, such as exercise and eating spicy foods, releases endorphins in the brain. Excitement, laughing, crying, or engaging in risky activities can trigger the release as well. The body also releases them while relaxing with a massage, dancing, or when falling in love.

Endorphins, also known as endogenous morphine, are an arrangement of amino acids known a opioid peptides. These chemicals function as neurotransmitters that help regulate moods, sleep patterns and the way one responds to pain and stress. When present in the body, endorphins act as a natural painkiller and are able to provide a sense of comfort, wellness and happiness.

Exercise causes physical pain, which releases endorphins.
Exercise causes physical pain, which releases endorphins.

As soon as the body senses pain or stress, it automatically releases these chemicals to help the mind and body better cope with the situation. Strenuous exercise that allows a person to continue beyond his or her normal limits of pain or fatigue is a common way to naturally stimulate the release. During exercise, the endorphins act as natural painkillers that numb the discomfort that normally would stop an individual from continuing with the exercise. This is often referred to as a "runner's high" because it allows the person to continue and reach a natural state of happiness and sense of accomplishment.

Distance running can enhance one's mood.
Distance running can enhance one's mood.

Going through an emotional or stressful stage in life can trigger the same mechanism. Therefore, crying, fear, anxiety, and other emotional pain can prompt the body to respond by increasing the production of endorphins. In a similar fashion, laughing, joking around, and just having fun also release these chemicals. Activities that relax the mind and body, such as acupuncture or getting a full body massage, a head massage or even just a shower massage, can help produce that blissful feeling. Swimming in a float tank is also said to be effective, because the individual is able to relax and meditate in a dark and soundproof saltwater tank.

Falling in love and engaging in sex are natural ways of producing endorphins.
Falling in love and engaging in sex are natural ways of producing endorphins.

The thrill of falling in love and any sexual activity naturally releases endorphins. Dancing to a slow and steady rhythm, or even just listening to one's favorite music, also aids in obtaining the feeling of happiness. Another type of activity that triggers endorphins is one that puts the individual into a risky state, such as skydiving or bungee jumping. Swimming with sharks, riding amusement park rides, or watching an intense sporting event can dramatically increase the endorphin levels in the brain, allowing one to achieve a natural high.

Discussion Comments


@ddljohn – My biology professor says that chocolate does release endorphins in the brain. It releases enough of them that we can feel euphoric just from eating it.

Something else he says that it releases is serotonin. This is an anti-depressant already present in the brain, so when it gets released, you feel less stressed and anxious.

When the chocolate-induced endorphins take away our pain, we are free to feel happiness. Generally, if you are physically uncomfortable, you won't feel much joy. If your body feels good, then it tends to make your mind follow suit.


@cloudel – I know what you mean. I get a high from just watching my brother play video games, so I imagine it's more intense when you are in control.

The way you describe what you are feeling reminds me of how I feel while sledding down a steep hill. I absolutely love the rush, but I get anxious, scared, and panicky at the same time.

The difference between the two is that I'm not totally in control while sledding. Changes in the way the snow is packed could cause me to drift off course and hit a tree. Video games are pretty much cut and dry, so if you do the right moves, you get the desired result.

I think the unpredictability of sledding is what gives me such a rush. The fact that I'm moving much faster than any human should ever move downhill is thrilling and frightening simultaneously.


My body releases endorphins while I'm playing video games. There is such a thrill about knowing I'm in control of life and death situations in a virtual world that my body responds as it would if I were in actual danger.

As I use the controller to jump chasms and fight attackers, I feel my heart beat faster and the blood rush through my veins. My palms start to sweat, and once I get out of virtual danger, I feel high.

Some people ask me why I would put myself through this when I don't have to. I love the feeling of having accomplished something, even if it is imaginary. I love the rush of endorphins I get from pretending it's real.


When you are in pain, you cannot tell that your body is releasing endorphins. I have cysts on my kidneys that rupture from time to time, and when they do, I feel an intense stabbing pain. It doesn't seem like endorphins are anywhere nearby.

I'm sure after reading this that they must have been flowing steadily, but the pain was so intense that I couldn't tell. I had to use some manmade painkillers to get rid of it.

Once the pain pills kicked in, I felt like I do when my endorphins are released during something fun. My pain was gone, and I felt like laughing and talking. It felt as if an overload of natural endorphins had suddenly shot forth into my system.


If you really want to know how to release endorphins it is a good idea for you to get yourself a personal trainer. My time at the gym with my trainer was such a good workout that I really got to experience that "runner's high" that people are always talking about.

I think what really got me was the weight lifting routine my trainer got me started on. The constant challenge of pushing my muscles that extra mile was really addicting. While I had no desire to be really buff, I did like the feel of challenging myself. I really recommend weight lifting for anyone who wants to experience that pain/pleasure feeling.


I have a theory that we release more endorphins when we're engaged in an activity we enjoy.

I, for example, love dancing and swimming and the happiest moments of my life were when I was doing one of these activities. I also agree that stress, worry and sadness completely disappear when you're doing something you like.

So we probably don't need a "How to Release Endorphins" manual that tells us which exact activities to do. I think if you do what you love, the endorphins will be there!

Maybe that's why people say that it's very important to have a job that you love. Because you will always feel high on happiness while doing it and will be even more successful at it!


I heard someone talking about spicy foods on TV just the other day! He was saying that when we eat extremely spicy foods, we are in so much pain that the pain becomes pleasure!

I thought that was the sillies thing I had ever heard but now I understand why. I didn't know that pain triggers the release of endorphins in the body- the same hormone that causes us to feel pleasure!

Another thing that releases endorphins is applying pressure on different spots of the body. There is a spot on my hand and below my eyebrow that I press when I have migraines. The acupuncture expert I visit regularly for my sinuses showed me this tip. It's basically an all natural painkiller.


I always hear about how chocolate makes us happy. Does it also release endorphins? But what is the connection between pain relief and happiness?

I know that working out releases endorphins, that's why I try and motivate myself to go work out several times a week. I know that even though I don't feel like it at first, I will feel much more happier and energetic post-workout.


@Crispety- Pain also releases endorphins. I remember when I was in labor with my son, my epidural medication wore off and I was in active labor. I have to tell you that it was the worst pain I had ever felt, but at the same time it was so thrilling that I was having my son that I overcame the pain and after he was born I was in heaven.

I was so happy and excited that it felt like a “Runner’s high”. I think that pain along with thrilling moments also bring out a sense of excitement and are really other things that can cause endorphins to release.


@GreenWeaver -For me the enhancement of my mood and general feeling of happiness improves when I have a release of endorphins. It really elevates my mood, and I can concentrate better.

In fact, I read that in Japan many of the schools start their day with exercise so that the children could be more focused and better behaved.

Since the endorphin release also makes people feel happier it probably also cuts down on bullying.

I also read that chocolate releases endorphins too and can be a natural mood enhancer.


I agree that exercising releases endorphins. After an intense cardio workout, I always get that runner’s high and feel amazing. I think that this is why some people become addicted to exercising because they love the feeling that they get when they finish a workout.

It is amazing because many times I will have something on my mind that is stressing me out, yet when I finish working out the problem does not seem so dire anymore. It really helps to relieve stress and make me feel more at ease.

I also think that the endorphins released during exercise allow for more restful sleep later on in the evening.

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    • Exercise causes physical pain, which releases endorphins.
      By: Ken Hurst
      Exercise causes physical pain, which releases endorphins.
    • Distance running can enhance one's mood.
      By: Maridav
      Distance running can enhance one's mood.
    • Falling in love and engaging in sex are natural ways of producing endorphins.
      By: drubig-photo
      Falling in love and engaging in sex are natural ways of producing endorphins.
    • Endorphins are released during any relaxing activity, such as getting a massage.
      By: ruigsantos
      Endorphins are released during any relaxing activity, such as getting a massage.
    • Skydiving releases endorphins.
      Skydiving releases endorphins.
    • Riding a roller coaster is likely to release endorphins.
      Riding a roller coaster is likely to release endorphins.
    • Endorphins are released in the brain during physical activity.
      By: James Steidl
      Endorphins are released in the brain during physical activity.
    • Eating a sweet food can release endorphins.
      By: olly
      Eating a sweet food can release endorphins.