THE MENTAL HEALTH BENEFITS OF RUNNING
BY Ben HookeRunning feels good. Whether you’re a trail traveller or road runner, it’s your perfect start to the day. The ideal break. Or a much-needed post-work blow out. Long runs, short bursts. Running feels good.
Now, it would be silly to believe that running is a universal solution to our mental health challenges.
However, some of the things running can do for your mind are crazy:
Running gets you highIt’s not all about endorphins - it’s about euphoria, and endocannabinoids. Exercise increases the levels of this chemical in the bloodstream. And they move into the brain easier than endorphins. And the feeling you get is the body’s most similar biochemical to cannabis. However, this is a natural high.
Running can return focus and increase your energyAny cardio releases chemicals that make you feel good. Endorphins, specifically, help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp for the next task. Exercise also stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent cognitive decline.
Running can release stressIt’s not just the short-term release of mental tension that running provides, it can also help with your long-term stress management. An increase in the norepinephrine chemical occurs when you exercise and can help your brain moderate your stress response.
Running can improve your mood and your self-esteemRunning gives you a dopamine hit - the short-term boost of your mood is important sometimes. But over time, regular activity is an investment - in your mind and soul, as well as your body. When it’s habitual, it can foster a sense of self-worth. It makes you feel strong and powerful. After challenge comes peace.