Have you ever stumbled across the term “Runner’s high”, i.e. a state that gives you euphoria or immense excitement, deep relaxation, and joy after a lengthy exercise or run? In fact, people who experience this state of mind after their run immediately witness less anxiety and depression.
This pretty much sums everything up, doesn’t it?
As it turns out, running doesn’t only automatically make us physically fit, but also transforms and helps to find balance in our day-to-day life.
If running is something that you are thinking of venturing into, then here are some mental health benefits of running that will help you get on track.
Relieves depression and anxiety
The sad reality is all of us are caught up in a hamster wheel and hellbent on getting through the day. In the worst-case scenario when we allow stress to overwhelm us, it takes a complete toll on our mental stability. Despite the age, over 264 million people suffer from depression globally.
Running is a great form of exercise for all age groups, and we can introduce running into our life and relieve any submerged pessimistic feelings. Running makes our heartbeat faster to pump blood throughout our body while nudging the breathing system to work harder than ever.
This prepares the brain for the tough task and consequently, your brain starts to release endorphins. The same hormones that are responsible for evoking a feel-good sensation, A.K.A. natural high.
This mental state ultimately helps you deal with depression, dwindle feelings of distress, fatigue, and anxiety.
Improves your sleep
As mentioned in Harvard Health Publishing, Americans are notoriously sleep-deprived, which is an understatement. The reason is, sleep and mental health are interconnected and sleep deprivation directly affects your psychological state and mental wellbeing.
So, how is running connected with a good night’s sleep?
According to research published on pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, just incorporating a 30-minute run during the weekdays for 3 consecutive weeks enhanced the runner's sleep and psychological functioning. Specifically, their sleep quality, mood, and concentration throughout the day were improved while the sleepiness during the day diminished.
What’s more, researchers also suggest considering daily morning running, because it is inexpensive and easy to implement during busy schedules. Not to mention, if done consistently, improvements can be seen within 3 weeks.
Acts like a meditation
In simple terms, running is like a meditation in motion that motivates you to zone in on the present moment rather than letting your mind wander around. Whether you have your 9-5 job issues, family struggles, or college work, running can fend off all those stresses.
As a matter of fact, when you run, your body releases a chemical called norepinephrine, the very chemical that moderates your brain’s response to tension. As a result, your sense of well-being is heightened.
When you make a habit of running, your mind recognizes a pattern of focusing one thing at a time which leads to a calm mental state, augmented optimism, and energy.
Self-esteem or one’s individual evaluation of their own worth is a focal part of every human being. If you have low self-esteem and self-worth, it can drastically impact your mental health.
What’s worse, low self-esteem always leads to depression and anxiety, along with developing destructive habits such as excessive smoking and drinking as a coping mechanism.
Moreover, people who have lower self-esteem often seem to say yes to everything that they don’t actually agree to instead of saying no. This accumulates anger, resentment, a hint of letting your own self down, etc. within your mind which harms your overall wellbeing.
Running, on the other hand, is proven to be beneficial for improving self-esteem and self-confidence levels. This stems from the fact that running can change your mood and the way you perceive yourself.
With higher self-esteem, you learn to appreciate yourself more and the hopelessness and doubts are in-deliberately kept at a distance.
Reduces the risk of Alzheimer's and Dementia
As you might probably know, Alzheimer's disease is one of the most common diseases in the world. In fact, over 6 million Americans of all ages have it.
Being a progressive neurologic disorder, Alzheimer's causes the brain to shrink and brain cells to die. On the other hand, Alzheimer's is one of the most common causes of dementia, which is the continuous decline in thinking, behavioral and social skills. In a nutshell, these affect a person’s ability to function on their own.
According to alzheimers.org.uk, studies show that regular physical exercise including running, brisk walking, sports, etc. can drastically reduce the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease later in life, and this reduction stays at 30% and 45% respectively.
Needless to say, no one should turn a blind eye to Alzheimer's and Dementia presuming that they only occur later in life, more so because you have a chance of preventing them by incorporating running into your daily routine.
Boost’s brainpower, productivity, and creativity
It is a no-brainer that we live in a demanding world. Regardless of your profession, you need constant productivity and creativity. Be that as it may, sometimes tapping into our brainpower is tricky.
But, if you’re an avid runner, chances are you’ll be stuck with your creative process less often and have more mental energy to take on the day.
As stated in webmd.com, cardiovascular exercises such as running encourage generating new brain cells, which ultimately leads to enhanced brain performance and function.
Better yet, if you take your difficulty of running up a notch, the levels of a protein that derives from the brain are increased. This particularly helps in decision-making and higher thinking, while heightening your productivity and creativity.
Over to you
The mental health benefits that originate from making running a staple in our life are unquestionable, not to mention backed by science.
But, if you feel a bit indecisive about embracing the mental and physical equilibrium into your livelihood with running, you can break the ice with a brisk walk and determine your physical ability.
However, make sure to wear the right footwear, and activewear before going for a run, and don’t ever overlook warming yourself up by doing a bit of stretching beforehand to keep injuries at bay.
Written By: Gargie K.