Running..… some love it and some hate it. Some can’t live with it and some people can’t function properly without it. Whatever your type, there’s no question the positive impact running and exercise in general can have on your mind. Of course there are huge health benefits in terms of muscle tone and strength, cardiovascular health and heathy weight management but this article aims to concentrate solely on the impact it can have on improving your mental health.
Let’s take two of the main conditions of poor mental health – Depression and anxiety. There’s no single cause of depression – It can occur for a variety of reasons and it has many different triggers. Depression is a mood disorder that affects the way you think, feel, and behave. It causes feelings of sadness or hopelessness that can last anywhere from a few days to a few years. It’s also very common and affects around 1 in 10 people at some point during their life.
We all feel anxious at times, but some people find it hard to control their worries. Their feelings are more consistent, intense and can affect their daily lives. There are many different types of anxiety including Generalised Anxiety, panic disorders, phobias, PTSD - the list goes on. It’s estimated up to 5% of the population is affected by an anxiety disorder.
There are many different treatments for depression and anxiety and your doctor should be your first port of call to determine the nature and severity of your condition. When you’re suffering from depression or anxiety, it can be hard to even get out of bed and face the day, let alone go for a run. However, if you can find that initial strength from within, it can have a huge impact – Research demonstrates the psychological benefits of running to help reduce anxiety and improve your mood.
HOW IT CAN HELP
Release of endorphins
When you run, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. They interact with the receptors in your brain which reduce your perception of pain. They also trigger a positive feeling in the body and hence promoting a feeling of well-being throughout.
Running is great for getting out into the fresh air and concentrating solely on putting one foot in front of the other. It’s a chance for some much needed ‘you’ time and gives you the opportunity of gaining some space away from everything and everyone and so the opportunity to better clear your mind. You can listen to music or a podcast and immerse yourself in this moment only rather than concentrating on your worries and concerns.
An increase in confidence
Setting running goals and meeting them can result in a huge boost in morale and confidence. In addition, a healthy body can help to contribute to a healthy mind and so getting in shape through exercise and a nutrient rich diet can also do wonders for the mind.
Running is a great way of meeting people. Yes, you can choose to run on your own, especially if you’re looking for some quiet time and space, however, it’s also a very sociable activity should you want it to be. Simply exchanging a friendly smile or greeting can really lift your mood. Or, of course you could join a fun running club for like-minded people. Running clubs have people of all abilities and you can choose which group you fall into, whether that’s beginners, intermediate or above.
Feeling like your helping yourself is a great boost. Doing something positive to manage your condition and symptoms is a healthy coping strategy – especially running or another form of exercise. Often people use alcohol or drugs to take the edge of their mood, however, ultimately, this will lead to a downward spiral and help nobody, especially yourself. Running however, is a positive and healthy activity and something you can work on and improve over time.
Studies have shown that as little as 10 minutes of physical exercise per day can help alleviate depression and anxiety. Life is extremely busy and life in the great outdoors has been replaced by a screen. If you’re a non-runner you could consider walking to begin with or a park-run with your family, which is a free scheme, set up by Paul Sinton-Hewitt when he was at a low ebb, encourages people to run 5k every week at a local event – it’s free, it’s inclusive, and there’s no emphasis on speed or the right trainers.
Couch to 5k is a great app which literally gets you running from nothing. It eases you in gently and can get you running 5k within the stated 9 weeks. There are also many accessories which can aid your run. We have created a running belt to hold your accessories, including your smart phone so you can listen to your favourite, motivating songs and get even more from your run.