Running can be a great way of combating anxiety and improving your mental health. Over the years many studies have been done that show the positive effects of running on the mind.
Running or any physical exercise can be the perfect reprieve from your daily concerns and anxieties and for many years there has been a link between physical activity and mental health, but this link and conversations around it is becoming more and more prevalent.
Focusing on your physical health and fitness, will more than likely result in an improvement in your fitness levels and appearance, but it may also lead to an improvement in your mental health. Running in particular helps to get your heart pumping, it gets blood moving around the whole body which in turn increases the amount of oxygen and nutrients which gets into your muscles. This will in turn, help you be more capable of getting through the day, alleviating stress and unnecessary anxiety.
Whilst this might seem like a generic broad brush statement, studies have shown that aerobic exercise could be as effective as antidepressants for people suffering from moderate depression. It’s always advised to see a professional if you have depressive tendencies, but in the interim exercise interventions could be an approach worth trying.
Cardiovascular exercise can also help to improve brain power. “A tough run increases levels of a brain-derived protein in the body, believed to help with decision-making, higher thinking and learning.”
Settle your mind
Sometimes your mind can be filled with the events and troubles of the day. It is difficult to totally destress and get away from these troubles, however going for a run can be a great antidote to stress.
Focusing on improving your running and listening to your breathing has a meditative quality. Breathing fresh air and concentrating on putting one foot after another can calm the mind and provide a pleasant distraction.
Long distance running can result in a "runner's high". A good run can release endorphins and will allow you to experience positive feelings more easily. It is the perfect way of relieving stress and triggering good emotions.
Expand your mind
Recently there have been studies to suggest that running can lead to changes in your brain. Running regularly engages the brain in unique ways to deal with overcoming fatigue as well as mental and physical obstacles. It can also help train your mind to be more flexible and solve problems more efficiently.
It has been suggested that running, particularly interval training, can improve cognitive flexibility and aerobic power in young adults. There have also been studies that show how the resting functionality of your brain is better if you are a healthy person that engages in endurance activities like running.
Increasing your cognitive flexibility and expanding the capabilities of your brain may help you combat mental health issues.
There are many ways you can approach mental health. There is no fix-all solution. Running is just one of the many methods that people have found useful. As well as being great for your physical health, the benefits of running can be felt in your mind. If you make running part of your daily routine, you may see a marked increase in your overall well-being.
Above we have highlighted some of the reasons why you should run to improve your mental health. Hopefully, you will be able to take some of these tips and apply them to your own approach to a healthy mind.
If you don’t know where to start, there are tons of resources available. The NHS have a Couch to 5k initiative which is designed to get you from beginner to running a 5k in 9 weeks, or there are events like Parkrun which harness a real community spirit and are all around the UK.