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How can a running regimen improve your mental health?

running - mental health

Most of us are familiar with how running or jogging on a regular basis can improve one’s physical fitness. However, numerous studies have also shown that incorporating a running regimen in your life can also improve your mental health. The following is a summary of the countless ways that a consistent running routine can make your mind space a better place.

Improving Your Mood

The mere fact that you’re reading this article means that you can probably predict the first thing that it will pronounce: running can improve your mood. Quite frankly, I’ve never heard anyone in my entire life say anything like “I just took a run, and now I feel glum.” The reason being when you run anywhere, especially when it’s outdoors or on a trail, it releases natural endorphins in your body that can induce physical euphoria or a sense of happiness. From personal experience, I will say that — at the least — it gives you a sense of accomplishment, both during the activity and afterward. Running also gifts you with an uninterrupted period to immerse yourself in self-reflection and ruminate over your current troubles or conflicts. I, myself, have often resolved some of my dilemmas while taking a good run.

Combating Depression

Research has also shown that jogging or brisk walking can reduce the symptoms of clinical depression. In fact, one study found that running is as effective at mitigating depression as psychotherapy. The study involved participants who were assigned one of three groups: those who ran, were subjected to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and received both interventions. The results of the study revealed that all three test groups exhibited significant reductions in their symptoms of depression; however, there was little difference between the groups who ran and those who experienced CBT.

Enhancing Your Learning Abilities

Running regularly can also help you improve your mental performance. It requires you to use willpower and focus to overcome the inevitable fatigue and unforeseen challenges. A 2007 study published in Neurobiology of Learning and Memory found that both low-impact aerobic running and high-intensity anaerobic sprints can facilitate your cognitive ability to learn and retain new information and vocabulary. Although these benefits seemed to be more pronounced regarding high-intensity running, both forms of exercise increased the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (a protein more commonly known as “BDNF”) and the neurotransmitter catecholamine, both of which are known contributors to the brain’s cognitive and learning functions.

Sharpening Your Memory

A Brazilian study published in 2011 suggested that running can also improve your memory. These researchers subjected aging, inactive rats to a mere five minutes of running on a treadmill, several times a week during a five-week period. The study found that the memory centers in the rodents’ brains produced increased amounts of BDNF, which allowed the rats to perform as well as newer rats on rodent “memory tests.”

Alleviating Stress

Jogging is also an effective way to relieve stress. According to studies cited by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, vigorous forms of exercise (including jogging) can reduce anxiety and help you to relax. Some studies have even concluded that running can be as effective as medication in relieving emotional tension. Taking a “speed run” is an excellent way to dissipate momentary aggression and anger while a longer run can be useful for working out more pervasive, nagging problems.

Other Mental Benefits

In addition to the foregoing, a dedicated running regimen has numerous other benefits that many studies have explored in-depth. Running can help you sleep better, boost your confidence and self-esteem, protect your brain from aging and increase your creativity. It is a holistic, comprehensive way to improve both your physical and mental health, which is why people from diverse walks of life have harnessed the power of a good run. For example, professional poker player Robbie Strazynski, comedian Eddie Izzard and music mogul Sean (“P. Diddy”) Combs have each undertaken running campaigns that not only improved their well-being but also raised money for their favorite charitable causes.

Hopefully, you, too, will be inspired to lace up your running shoes, brush up on running essentials and take your first step toward a better you!

Photo by Pixabay, CC BY




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