The effects of running and meditation on beta-endorphin, corticotropin-releasing hormone and cortisol in plasma, and on mood

Biol Psychol. 1995 Jun;40(3):251-65. doi: 10.1016/0301-0511(95)05118-t.


The relations between three hormones of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis, beta-endorphin (beta-EP), corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and cortisol, and mood change were examined in 11 elite runners and 12 highly trained mediators matched in age, sex, and personality. Despite metabolic differences between running and meditation, we predicted that mood change after these activities would be similar when associated with similar hormonal change. Compared to pre-test and control values, mood was elevated after both activities but not significantly different between the two groups at post-test. There were significant elevations of beta-EP and CRH after running and of CRH after meditation, but no significant differences in CRH increases between groups. CRH was correlated with positive mood changes after running and mediation. Cortisol levels were generally high but erratic in both groups. We conclude that positive affect is associated with plasma CRH immunoreactivity which itself is significantly associated with circulating beta-EP supporting a role for CRH in the release of beta-EP. Increased CRH immunoreactivity following meditation indicates, however, that physical exercise is not an essential requirement for CRH release.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / blood*
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood*
  • Male
  • Reference Values
  • Running / physiology*
  • Running / psychology
  • Yoga / psychology*
  • beta-Endorphin / blood*


  • beta-Endorphin
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Hydrocortisone