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Work out with friends for a natural high

16 September 2009

Exercise classes or going for a run with a friend will make you feel better than working out alone, according to new research published today in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

When we exercise, happiness' hormones called endorphins are released by the body giving us a natural high', a feeling of elation. To find out if this hormone release is affected by working out in a group, a team of scientists from the University of Oxford measured endorphin production in a group of rowers, both when they exercised alone and when they trained together as a team.

Endorphins help to reduce the feeling of pain and Emma Cohen and her team carried out a pain threshold test before and after the exercise sessions as a way of measuring how much endorphins had been produced.

Their results showed sportsmen to have a significantly higher tolerance to pain after exercising in a group than they did after exercising alone, suggesting that their group workouts led to a greater production of feel good endorphins.

Not only do these results imply a benefit to exercising with others, they also help to explain why group activities like dancing, laughing and making music make us feel so fantastic. A greater production of endorphins during these activities, suggest the authors, could be a way to help humans to bond in groups and improve social interactions.