How Running Helps Mental Health

Physical exercise has numerous health benefits. Whenever you exercise, chemicals (endorphins and serotonin) are secreted in your brain to improve your mood. An exercise like running helps mental health and runners liken the chemical releases to what is known as a runner’s high.

Your heart pumps blood through your body faster, and your respiratory system gets more active as you begin to run. As you push yourself to go faster, your body starts releasing endorphins. These chemicals stimulate the body and result in the “runner’s high” where you feel happy and relaxed.

Besides this “high” that improves your mood, running also provides several mental health benefits.

Benefits of Running on Mental Health

Running can give one an overall feeling of happiness, and the following are its benefits on a person’s mental health:

• Reduces stress

After your run, endocannabinoids flood your bloodstream and moves into the brain providing feelings of lowered stress and calm. This chemical substance is similar in characteristics to cannabis.

• Boosts your mood

Running decreases anxiety and depression. As blood circulates to the brain, the part that improves your mood is affected, causing some positive uplift in your current mood.

• Helps recover from mental health symptoms

Running is encouraged in therapy, and some studies show that regular running helps one recover from some mental illness symptoms.

• Improves sleep

The chemicals released during and after running are relaxing enough to induce deep sleep for the body. Consequently, a good sleep schedule is good for the brain. Even If you have insomnia, a moderate run can work as your sleeping pill.

• Manages stress

Running boosts the body’s ability to manage stress in a state of mental tension. It also increases norepinephrine, which moderates the brain’s response to stress.

• Prevents cognitive decline

Working out generally between age 25 and 45 prevents degeneration of the hippocampus in the brain, which is an integral part of memory and learning. Running helps slow this cognitive decline that begins in old age and improve overall brain performance.

• A calm mind

Running, whether on a sidewalk or treadmill, is an excellent coping mechanism when in a bad place mentally, as the chemicals released can help one feel calmer if experiencing anxiety. It also helps with your breathing.

• More productivity

Increased productivity sometimes is just a run away. It can be hard to squeeze a workout session into an already busy daily schedule. Still, research has shown that workers who exercise regularly are more productive, energetic, and creative than their less active peers.

Tips to keep a running routine

Many people find it challenging to keep up with a running routine or are just unmotivated. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to get moving as much as you can.

1. Get running 3 to 5 times a week

Run for at least 30 minutes. Consistency is better than running long distances, so start small and set daily goals. It is imperative for improving your mental health.

2. Get a running buddy

This is for accountability purposes. Finding a running partner will keep you accountable and help you stick to your running schedule.

3. Don’t be discouraged

Especially when starting, it takes time for your body to get accustomed. You don’t need to be discouraged as it usually takes time to start running comfortably and keep up with a running routine.

4. Be mindful of your body

If running stresses you out, you may want to slow down when running. You know your body best, so take cognizance of how you feel.

How much running do you need before you get the benefits?

With a few minutes of running, you can start to experience the mental health benefits listed above. For people who are already consistent, there are continued benefits from 30 minutes to about 300 minutes a week, where it does not make any much more difference.

Are there added benefits from running with other people?

Besides the several mental health benefits, running with other people provides added benefits in terms of engagement. There is a sense of social cohesion when we do things together as a group. Not everyone would want to run in a group, especially with the current pandemic, and it’s okay. Running activities that involve groups only have an added benefit in the social aspect.

Going outside and being in an open space is helpful for our mental health. It brings a feeling of completing a goal making us feel good, just like when we run. So the next time you’re struggling to begin your morning run or thinking of sleeping in and missing your workout, remember all the benefits you’ll enjoy if you don’t.

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