Nine minutes and 44 seconds of exercise are all it takes for a natural high to kick in

By Catherine Orda | Photo by Atlas Green /Unsplash

Much has been written about the runner’s high: that charged, almost euphoric feeling one gets in the middle of a run. And while not every runner can vouch for its existence, the said sensation has been scientifically proven. When we run, we release mood-altering chemicals called endorphins. The more endorphins we pump out, the greater the effect—meaning, the more strongly we can feel a natural high.

But it’s not just running that can elicit a flood of endorphins. The euphoric feeling that a lot of runners experience can also occur with most forms of exercise (ideally ones that are targeted towards endurance improvement). There is a certain point in which exercising will naturally lead to the release of endorphins—reaching that point just requires a certain amount of time.

It Takes Less Than 10 Minutes

Nine minutes and 44 seconds. That’s the average amount of time you need to exercise in order to experience an endorphin high. But that’s only if you’re someone who exercises at least three times a week. These findings were reported by a new YouGov survey commissioned by online sports retailer wiggle.co.uk whose aim was to study the transition between two points one undergoes when they exercise: the point in which you motivate yourself to exercise and the point in which you start enjoying doing so.

Sports psychologist Michael Caulfield has dubbed this mental shift that leads to a natural high as youhoria. Most people find it excruciating to push themselves to start working out, but Caulfield insists that “there is a very distinct moment where your mindset changes and you take action. Once you do, you never look back at running or exercise and say “I wish I hadn’t done that.””

Women and Millennials Reach It Faster

The survey also shows how certain factors can lead to variations on the nine-minutes-and-44-seconds rule: If you’re a woman, you’re more likely to reach youphoria faster—about one minute quicker than men who take about 10 minutes and 20 seconds.

Age, too, plays a role in it. Those in the 35-44 bracket take the longest to reach a natural high, having to go through about 12 minutes and 47 seconds. People in the 45-54 age bracket, on the other hand, only take seven minutes and four seconds to reach youphoria.

“There is a very distinct moment where your mindset changes and you take action. Once you do, you never look back at running or exercise and say “I wish I hadn’t done that,”” says Caulfield

Unsurprisingly, it is adults between 18-24 years old that were found to reach the high the quickest, with an average time of less than seven minutes. Caulfield says, by way of an explanation: “People are naturally wired differently and may have different forms of motivation. Research shows that self-motivation tends to peak between 18-24, so millennials are more likely to push themselves to get out there and exercise compared to other age groups.”

Lastly, the type of exercise you do can determine the amount of time it will take until the euphoric feeling kicks in. People who regularly work out in the gym take about six minutes and 36 seconds before really starting to enjoy exercising. Runners take eight minutes and 28 seconds, while people who prefer to walk or hike take 10 minutes and 35 seconds. As for people who attend exercise classes, it takes 9 minutes and 17 seconds.