Exercise activates the endocannabinoid system

Neuroreport. 2003 Dec 2;14(17):2209-11. doi: 10.1097/00001756-200312020-00015.


Extensive documentation exists showing that exercise induces analgesia and sedation. Despite decades of research attempting to explicate a neurochemical basis for these phenomena, the mechanism underlying these changes is unknown. Using trained male college students running on a treadmill or cycling on a stationary bike for 50 min at 70-80% of maximum heart rate, we report here the first evidence that exercise of moderate intensity activates the endocannabinoid system, suggesting a new mechanism for exercise-induced analgesia and possibly other physiological and psychological adaptations to exercise.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Arachidonic Acids / blood*
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / blood*
  • Endocannabinoids*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Test / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides


  • Arachidonic Acids
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides
  • anandamide