August 31, 2023 12:30 pm ETEstimated Read Time: 6 Minutes
High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, has come to gain a lot of attention for the proposed benefit of being able to get the maximum health benefits in a minimal amount of time. HIIT has become particularly attractive to individuals who feel like they have no time to get in enough exercise. Now, new research shows that HIIT may be beneficial for boosting the endocannabinoid levels located in your brain. However, what does HIIT actually entail, what are endocannabinoids, and what is there to be said about its ability to boost endocannabinoids? Let’s find out.
HIIT Style Workouts Explained
HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is a type of exercise that involves short bursts of intense exercise alternated with low-intensity recovery exercises. A typical HIIT workout lasts between 10 to 30 minutes and is said to be the most time-effective manner to exercise. HIIT exercise also typically involves working with one’s own body weight and may consist of 4-6 repetitions of an exercise in one workout. For example, a HIIT workout on a treadmill would include sprinting as fast as you can for 30 seconds and then moderately jogging for 3 minutes and then repeat the process. For the purpose of understanding the study, you should know that high-intensity interval training is considered a type of acute physical exercise.
Benefits of HIIT Exercise
Benefits of HIIT exercise have previously only been limited to the following before it became known that endocannabinoid levels in the brain get boosted. The benefits are as follows:
HIIT assists with burning a lot of calories in a short amount of time.
Your metabolic rate increases and stays increased for several hours after the workout.
It assists with fat-loss.
If your HIIT involves using some weights or resistance, it may help you gain muscle in place of fat.
HIIT can improve oxygen consumption.
Assists with reducing heart rates and blood pressures.
It also assists with reducing blood sugar levels.
What is The ECS?
Before we can understand what the study has to say about HIIT exercise boosting endocannabinoid levels in the brain, we first need to understand what the endocannabinoid system, is as well as what endocannabinoids are in the first place. The ECS, or the endocannabinoid system, is defined as a complex cell-signaling system that is responsible for regulating functions and processes such as sleep, mood, appetite, memory as well as reproduction, and fertility. The ECS is made up of three core components which are endocannabinoids, endocannabinoids receptors, and enzymes.
The endocannabinoids, or endogenous cannabinoids, are molecules that the body produces naturally and which share similarities as molecules to the cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant. The endocannabinoids are produced by our bodies when and as needed in order to assist with maintaining homeostasis (harmony) in the body. The two endocannabinoids identified as key to the ECS include anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG).
Endocannabinoid Receptors and Enzymes:
The endocannabinoid receptors are located throughout the body. The endocannabinoids, and cannabinoids, bind to these receptors in order to send a signal to the ECS so that it may take action as necessary. The two main receptors include CB1 receptors (mostly in the central nervous system) and CB2 receptors (mostly in the peripheral nervous system). The endocannabinoids naturally produced by our bodies, other plants, and food but especially those from cannabis, can bind to either receptor, which then, in turn, causes the ECS to respond by either reducing inflammation or tending to pain as examples.
This 2020 study was conducted by researchers including Blanca Bosch, Aurélien Bringard, Maria Logrieco, and 6 others. The team took on this research since “evidence has accumulated to suggest that regular physical exercise over several weeks or months may promote synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus in animals and in humans, while also enhancing learning and memory in general”. The researchers also stated that “acute physical exercise increases the levels of endocannabinoids in the brain, which can be measured peripherally”.
The researchers explain that acute physical exercise, or HIIT for example, increases the levels of an endocannabinoid called anandamide (AEA), which has then been positively linked to an increase in CB1 receptor activity and increase in hippocampal plasticity. In order to confirm whether the endocannabinoid levels were being boosted, the research team took blood samples before and after each exercising condition. The team found that the quantity of the endocannabinoid, AEA, had increased significantly after moderate to high-intensity exercise in comparison to after rest.
The team stated that “at the behavioral level, participants successfully learned the sequence, as shown by their better performance for sequence compared to random blocks. We also observed a significant overall effect of acute physical exercise, indicating a clear benefit from engaging in high-intensity exercise and tending towards an effect for moderate-intensity exercise rather than resting”. While explaining that a “significant AEA increase in response to physical exercise. Note that levels slightly dropped after rest, as expected from metabolic and circadian fluctuations. Second, we found a positive correlation between AEA levels and SRTT performance for both the moderate and for the high intensity exercising conditions, suggesting that sequence learning may have benefited from exercise possibly mediated at least in part by AEA increase”. SRTT is the serial reaction time task that was used as a performance test before and after exercising or a rest period.
The Benefits of Boosting Endocannabinoids in the Brain
Improved procedural memory.
Promotes hippocampal activity and functions which includes storing long-term memories, making memories resistant to forgetting, spatial processing, spatial navigating as well as regulating emotional responses (since it makes up part of the limbic system).
A study published in 2019 explained that boosting levels of AEA in the brain “seems to affect the rewarding and reinforcing actions of many drugs of abuse”. In other words, the study suggests that boosting AEA levels will “provide a basis for developing new pharmaco-therapeutic tools for the treatment of substance use disorders”.
Boosting endocannabinoids in the brain, particularly AEA will improve memory, appetite, sleep as well as pain relief in an attempt to maintain homeostasis in the body.
AEA is linked to mental health and well-being, which means that boosting the quantities will be assisting with maintaining happiness, keeping fear at bay as well as warding off stress.
One of the more significant benefits will be to those who suffer from an endocannabinoid deficiency. By doing HIIT exercises, you will be boosting the endocannabinoid count in your body, thus reducing the risk of suffering from the adverse effects of not having enough endocannabinoids to maintain harmony in the body.
As you can see, doing HIIT workouts can naturally boost the number of endocannabinoids in the brain, along with delivering a host of benefits on its own. Perhaps HIIT can be used as a means for treating individuals with endocannabinoid deficiency as well as promoting overall health.
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