How Running Benefits Your Mental Health

In an uncertain COVID-19 affected world, there is no doubt that the mental health of the global population has taken a hit. Having to adjust to a changing environment with various mandates and restrictions can be isolating, with many people working from home and not being able to see their friends and family.

In some places, access to public facilities such as gyms is restricted, making attending those gym classes you love so much near impossible. Exercise is crucial to helping maintain good mental health, so many of us are finding new and creative ways to get our weekly exercise in.

Running is free, and accessible for many. Whether outside or on a treadmill, running is fantastic for cardiovascular health and building your endurance. Read on to discover more benefits of running, and how it positively impacts your mental health.

Serotonin boost

Exercise stimulates parts of your brain responsible for mood, and boosts chemicals such as serotonin. This is why the term ‘runner’s high’ exists – a term for a ‘brief deeply relaxed state of euphoria’ which hits post run. Runner’s high is a great antidote to anxiety or general feelings of stress.

Aids with a healthy sleep cycle

Running can help regulate a person’s sleep schedule by wearing them out prior to bed. Running is relatively high intensity, which will tire the body out. This prepares the body for sleep, and you may feel more restful overall, promoting a healthy sleep cycle. This has huge impacts on mental health, as sleep quality greatly affects a person’s mood. Additionally, the serotonin produced during running, is a hormone which contributes to the sleep/wake cycle and helps to regulate the sleep cycle.

Promotes a healthy brain and improves memory function

Cardiovascular exercise aids with the reproduction of healthy brain cells. It also stimulates the hippocampus – the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning. This can improve mental clarity and focus, helping you perform better at work and in your daily life.

Combat cognitive decline

As running helps with maintaining a healthy brain, it can help slow down cognitive decline which occurs with aging. Staying mentally sharp can positively impact mental health.

Allocating time for oneself

We all lead incredibly busy lives, and any time we have to ourselves can be rare. By allocating specific times to exercise, you are taking charge of not only your physical wellbeing but your mental wellbeing. You can use the opportunity to listen to your favourite podcast using running headphones, or listen to music.

Social engagement

You don’t have to run alone if you don’t want to. A running buddy can do wonders in regards to keeping you accountable and motivated. There are also social running groups you can join through your local community, which is fantastic for maintaining social bonds with like minded people. Staying connected is important for maintaining good mental health.

Running Benefits Your Mental Health

Challenge yourself and boost self esteem

Running can be challenging, and over time you may find yourself trying to exceed previous distances and improve on your pace. Challenging yourself in a healthy way can help motivate you on your runs, and you will feel proud of yourself every single time you hit a new personal best. As you become more confident in your ability, you may notice an improvement in your confidence and self esteem.

Alleviate the physical symptoms of stress

When we go through periods of high stress we may notice negative physical changes on our bodies. These may include tight or sore muscles, headaches, fatigue, chest tightness, gut issues and heartburn. The sense of discomfort and worry which stem from these symptoms can add to pre-existing feelings of anxiety and depression, in turn creating a negative cycle.

Like any form of exercise, running helps combat these physical symptoms by promoting blood flow, relaxing muscles and relieving tension in the body and providing you with a serotonin boost.

Boost your energy levels

By engaging in exercise and lifting your heart rate on a weekly basis, you will begin to feel more energised over time. Having more energy throughout the day makes it easier to complete your daily tasks and helps alleviate feelings of anxiety and depression.

Our final thoughts

The body and the mind are linked, and by looking after the body, you are also looking after your mind too. Running may seem daunting to some, but if you start off running in short achievable bursts and keep at it, you will feel all the better for it. Even just 10 minutes of running per day is enough for you to start feeling the positive effects of running, and is fantastic for building your cardiovascular fitness and endurance. Make sure you have the right running shoes and running accessories, and you’re ready to hit the track.

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