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How Running Helps Your Mental Health

How Running Helps Your Mental Health

We know running and other exercise are good for our physical health, lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, resting heart rate and improving blood sugar control.

But, did you know that it can also massively benefit your mental health.

Getting outside and running even just one or two times a week can make a real difference to your mental wellbeing, especially in the winter when it can be far too easy to stay inside on cold and darker days.  

How can it help me? 

Running can have so many benefits for our mental health, they include but are not limited to:

Getting outside:

  • One of the great benefits of running over other forms of exercise like going to the gym is being able to get out in nature.
  • Just spending time outdoors is proven to reduce stress and improve mood.
  • Especially important during the winter months when our moods tend to be lower due to seasonal changes, lack of daylight etc.

Endorphins:

  • Endorphins are a chemical hormone released by the body, often triggered by exercise- known as the ‘feel-good’ chemicals because they can make you feel good and create a more positive state of mind- this is why some people say they get a ‘buzz’ from working out.
  • Some studies have shown that endorphins can also increase self-confidence and contribute to weight loss.

Improved Brain Health and Function:

  • Exercise increases blood flow to the brain which researchers believe to be the reason for improved brain function, including:
  • Focus and concentration/ mental clarity
  • Memory

Reduced stress and anxiety: 

  • Restlessness is a common symptom of anxiety- running can provide a way to channel this feeling.
  • Rhythmic exercise like running is proven to have a calming effect on the body.
  • Reduces blood pressure and increasing heart rate- helps to reduce levels of cortisol (the stress hormone)

Improved sleep:

  • Running can help you set a normal sleep schedule.
  • The chemicals released during and after running relax the body and encourage a deeper sleep.
  • People who struggle with conditions like Depression and Anxiety often experience a lack of or highly disrupted sleep.
  • Getting regular and better sleep is good for your brain and improves your mental health.

Sense of Achievement:

  • Sticking to a routine and reaching the goals you set yourself creates an amazing sense of achievement that will make you feel great and boost self-confidence.

Tips for starting out.

Think running could be the way forward for you and your mental wellbeing, but unsure where to start? We have a few tips to help you on your running and wellness journey. 

  • Start small: If you can get out a few days a week, consistency is way more important than how long or far you run. 
  • Take a friend: Starting a new exercise routine can be daunting. Having a friend to run with can help keep you motivated and hold each other accountable. It’s also more fun and spending time with others can combat feelings of loneliness. 
  • Time: It can take a lot of time to start and keep up a new routine. Especially if you weren’t previously very physically active - it could take up to 8 weeks before you feel comfortable in your routine but don’t be discouraged this is completely normal!

Ultimately, it’s important to be kind to yourself when starting a new exercise routine.

Don’t feel that you have to push yourself immediately as this will likely result in burnout and will make you less likely to actually want to keep up with your routine.

Know your limits and set yourself realistic goals.

Some things to consider.

Although running is a brilliant way to improve your mental health it’s not without limitations. Because it makes you feel good there can be the temptation to keep pushing and pushing yourself but, if you don’t allow your body time to rest between runs then it can be damaging to your physical health. Read about Why is Rest Important and how making sure you listen to your body get the right nutrition in your diet.

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