They are released into the brain when we physically exert ourselves. A runner’s high is a good example of how the body provides these feel-good chemicals independently as and when we need them, but t’s and c’s apply. A heavy physical workout helps to generate endorphins and endocannabinoids – the feel-good neurotransmitters that help to alleviate pain, fatigue, inflammation and depression.

Regular, intense bouts of exercise can have the same effect as cannabis, via stimulation of the body’s endocannabinoid system.

Endorphins cannot penetrate the blood-brain barrier and are more effective within the rest of the body whereas cannabinoids have free access to receptor sites within the brain as well as peripheral areas. The longer you keep on jogging or exercising, the more you will benefit from this euphoric effect – a natural defence against pain and fatigue. The effect is enhanced by enriching the diet with Omega 3 anti-inflammatory oils.

Exercise can be addictive – but it also has many health benefits that include:

  • Cardiovascular: improved circulation, blood pressure control, more oxygen, less blood clotting.
  • Metabolism: overcoming insulin resistance, lowering cholesterol, reducing obesity.
  • Emotional: exercise reduces mental stress and depression and stimulates to release of feel good chemicals – especially when you achieve the high and feel fitter, slimmer and more toned.

How much exercise?

After 30 minutes of strenuous exercise your blood sugar drops. If you continue to exercise, the body gets the message to generate growth hormones. This sets off a fat burning sequence and is why little 10-minute sessions are not as beneficial as a good long, hard hour’s workout. But do something, even if it is only a few minutes a day and then build up your fitness level. Do plenty of abdominal work to strengthen the back and to burn off the bulges. Remember that the pleasurable effects on your neurotransmitters are short lived and the body will only produce endocannabinoids as and when they are needed.

Balance your Omega 3 oils to improve the “joint” effect

Increase your intake of Omega 3 oil and reduce levels of pro-inflammatory oils, especially the Omega 6 and saturated fat group (arachidonic acid) to a minimum. There are no short cuts to maintaining a healthy essential fatty acid balance to control weight, joint pain and inflammation. It is unwise to take cannabinoids without making the necessary changes to your diet and exercise regimen. Gluten, for instance is a major inflammatory trigger and it needs to be eliminated from the diet in some cases before the inflammation subsides. We also need to find out why brain cells and neurons fail to interact with each other. Treating the cause will help us to solve the problem in the first place.

There are also many herbs and food supplements available that improve brain function and neural signalling. (Without THC – not even the traces that are causing problems with some patients). So in order to alleviate pain and anxiety and even get high, exercise and food supplements can do the trick. So too, the need to understand the role of the major THC-free phytocannabinoids from other sources such as blackseed (kalonjie), flaxseeds, echinachea and so on. Apart from phytocannabinoids, they provide very effective anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and tumour busting components and do not contain any THC.

Your attitude towards exercise is important – run for fun and get better results.

During research to determine the enjoyment factor during exercise, one group of people told go and have some fun on a run while listening to happy music on headphones. They really enjoyed the experience. The other group was forced to exercise, being told that they had to do it because of health reasons. They did not run as far as the “fun” group. They had more aches and pains and were not keen to run again. The moral of the story is to run for pleasure and persist until you feel the runner’s high – free cannabis!

Are you exercise resistant? You may have a thyroid problem

Many people hate any form of exercise, especially those who are in constant pain (fibromyalgia). An underactive thyroid gland (known as hypothyroidism) elevates levels of homocysteine and cholesterol. This condition also slows down the metabolism and causes a resistance to exercise. Heart disease and hypothyroidism are both associated with heavy metal poisoning, especially from mercury tooth fillings. We need to eliminate heavy metals and parasites and then see if the thyroid and heart conditions improve.

Enjoy a regular workout – get high!

We can all choose how and when we exercise and should do it often because it gives us a good break. Sitting on your butt they say increases the calcification of blood vessels so we all need to get up and move, especially in the open air.

A pedometer or heart rate monitor can help you develop an exact awareness of activity levels and encourage more exercise, such as walking, throughout the day. Eat sensibly before training. Avoid sugar or energy drinks because sugar blocks the release of growth hormone. Stay away from fructose and “energy” drinks. If you are unfit and run out of breath, you need to take a good hard look at yourself in the mirror. Exercise releases toxins into the bloodstream and you need to persevere. Take enough calcium and magnesium supplements to prevent cramps.

Muscles ache and stiffen when lactic acid levels rise. Protect your muscles and your heart by drinking citric acid or vinegar. A teaspoon of lemon juice, apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar in a glass of water with a pinch of salt will make all the difference.

Passive versus aerobic workouts

We are advised to seek balance in all things. Disciplined training of the muscles and posture is as important as cardiovascular fitness. Both aspects are present in dancing, aerobic sessions at the gym and in most martial arts routines. Tai Chi, Qigong and yoga are not as hard on the lungs. One can compensate by having a quick warm up session beforehand. Swimming and dancing are enjoyable, challenging and excellent for a cardiovascular workout.

Consider the causes of the “restless leg” syndrome

Some people experience a creepy, tingling sensation in the lower legs when they lie down or even sit for a long time. “You feel you want to ride a bicycle between the sheets!” Others feel uncomfortable after exercise and complain about “restless legs”. This condition affects both arterial and venous circulation and is especially experienced in the lower legs, feet and toes. It is usually associated with chronic diseases such as diabetes (peripheral neuropathy) or Parkinson’s and even anaemia. The side effects of alcohol, caffeine and medications can also affect the way nerves act on the muscles. Some say that dopamine imbalance causes this restless sensation. For some people a good exercise routine alleviates the syndrome, but for others, circulation and blood viscosity issues need to be addressed.

Listen to your legs – sometimes they need to move

Legs also move instinctively after a period of inactivity or as soon as you lie down. They do this to improve the return of venous blood to the heart to prevent DVT (Deep vein thrombosis). Leg muscles play an important role in blood circulation and may need to move even against your will. In this case a few leg stretches or running on the spot would be highly beneficial. The blood begins to flow freely and the legs calm down.

If the legs feel crampy after a run or an exercise routine, then arterial circulation may be the culprit (Claudication comes from the Latin “claudicare” meaning to limp). This can be caused by a build-up of heavy metals like mercury.

Mineral imbalances can also disrupt blood circulation. A magnesium deficiency is one of the most common causes. A pleasant way to absorb this is to soak in a hot bath before bedtime with a cup of Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) added to the water. Standing in a shower does not allow blood to flow as freely around the toes. After the relaxing bath rub lavender or arnica oil on the soles of the feet and massage it into the calves. The legs will be more relaxed and so will you. If this does not work then take 1 tablespoon of blackstrap molasses in a cup of hot water daily. Some sufferers say it makes all the difference. It provides more iron, potassium, magnesium and other minerals and alleviates constipation and water retention.

How laughter can also relieve pain, anxiety and boost immunity

Strenuous exercise, excitement, aggression, fear and shock make us release adrenaline. This hormone from the inner tissue of the adrenal gland is also released with endorphins and endocannabinoids. They help us to control pain as well as having a mood enhancing effect. People become addicted to activities that release them because they have the same chemical structure as morphine and cannabis. This is why you feel good after an intense physical workout.

Laughter can also induce a pan-relieving “upper” providing you do it to the extent that you roll over, howl and snicker. Such an enjoyable bout of laughter blocks the negative effects of cortisol and stress hormones. So instead of getting reactive and angry, just laugh! Laughter, like exercise is free. So are the endocannabinoids we make ourselves.

During a 1995 study by Doctor Berk of California on the effect of laughter on the immune system observed positive results in volunteers who watched a 60-minute comedy video. Blood samples were taken before, during and after viewing the video as well as the next day. There was an increase in activated T cells, natural killer cells, B cells and immunoglobulins.

The interferon level rose substantially and stayed high even during the following day. During a similar study in 1989, it was shown that laughter helps to decrease the output of stress hormones like epinephrine and cortisol, helping us to relax. It costs nothing, has no side effects and is also highly infectious!

Exercise and laughter are habit forming, addictive and very rewarding!