9 Reasons Why Running Is Great For Your Mental Health
When someone mentions ‘health’ what do you immediately think of? Is it your physical health? Perhaps it is your mental health or spiritual wellbeing – maybe you think of all of the above.
Running is frequently discussed in association with physical fitness, physical improvement, physical performance, and physical autonomy. Although all of these areas are influenced by running, the mindful aspects of the activity are only just starting to surface, and they are as fascinating to study as the impact running has on our bodies. It will come as no surprise to you that running has a variety of positive benefits on everything from the muscles in our legs to the condition of our hearts and even our metabolism. The ways running influences our anatomy varies on how long a run is, how often the running takes place and other factors that are subjective to each person’s personal body type. That being said, a very cool thing about the impact of running on our bodies is that sometimes it can continue to benefit us for a period of time even after we have stopped running.
Although it is regarded as a high-impact activity, running is actually proven to improve backs and joints. During a study of 44 first-time marathon runners (17 men and 27 women), researchers observed that post-marathon: “the knees of novice runners achieved sustained improvement, for at least 6 months post-marathon, in the condition of their bone marrow and articular cartilage.” The same effect was seen for the lower back.
In addition to this, running can actually boost the body’s immune system (think Vitamin C but like an activity) - in a 2019 paper, Nieman and Laurel M. Wentz summarised the compelling link between physical activity and the body’s defense system.
The activity has actually been proven to improve glucose regulation and lower the risk of diabetes and pre-diabetes. The most recent report on runners and diabetes-risk was published in late 2019. It followed more than 19,000 adults for more than six years and compared rates of diabetes in runners vs. non-runners. The result was most interesting: The runners had a 72 percent lower rate of diabetes development.
Now that you have a preview of how great running can be for your body, it is time to share the all-important info on what running can do for your mental health. At Lupa, we want to build a community that revolves around the holistic side of running and goes beyond just the act of putting one foot in front of another. We want to change the existing run culture of focusing on personal bests and take the time to talk about the transformative power of running across all planes of our lives.
When it comes to mindfulness, running is incredibly capable of holding some truly positive and almost medicinal qualities. The activity creates a rhythm that flows through your feet, up through your legs, and to waves through your body to your mind. A result of this energy spreading, in the short term, can include a great night’s sleep while in the long term it has been proven to improve memory and cognitive thinking as well as reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Here are some of the pretty awesome ways running goes from being just a physical activity to being a mindful one:
Running is probably among the best ways to beat nagging Monday (or lockdown) blues. If you are feeling low, 20 minutes of running can work like antidepressant and lift your mood
The activity can elevate your mood in the same way as recreational drugs because it stimulates the same pleasure and reward receptors. This is also one of the reasons why many addiction therapies include a lot of exercise.
Running has been known to trigger the production of endocannabinoids that make you happier and more focused.
Going for a run will make you think highly of yourself. A meta analysis of 57 studies found that exercise boosts people's confidence and improves their body image.
It leads to increased cortisol levels that are needed for better memorisation and information retention. Another study has shown that aerobic exercise increases BDNF that boosts memory.
It doesn’t stop there, research has shown that running stimulates growth of fresh grey matter in our brains. Just a month of running will result in thousands of new brain cells. This means you will learn new stuff a lot more quickly and easily. Not to mention that you will adapt to changes and deal with new challenges more efficiently.
On a deeper level, running results in a kind of connectivity that allows your brain to have higher-level thoughts. Thinking out of the box isn’t that hard because you can analyze and solve problems in a refreshed way.
Stress management. Running can control stress and boost the body's ability to deal with existing mental tension. Exercise also increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that helps moderate the brain's response to stress.
A heart-pumping run can boost creativity for up to two hours afterward. Rather than staring at the blank page waiting for an exceptional idea to fall from the sky, get those legs moving and refresh your body and brain at the same time.
Did we miss something? We would love to know what you think of running and its mental benefits as well as its physical benefits. Our community comes from you and is being shaped for you so join the Lupa beta and get involved in shaping the future of running culture!