Running Can Be Therapeutic For Our Mental Health

Cardiovascular exercises are already encouraged as part of the treatment for many mental health problems such as anxiety and Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

The positive impact of running on our body is well known, but it also has a slew of benefits for our mental health. Among them include improved memory, mood and a slowdown of the process of cognitive decline due to ageing. Multiple studies have also shown that running reduces the symptoms of depression. Following are some of the ways running can be therapeutic for our mental health-

Improves mood

The improved mood is one of the main effects of running as it enables the body to release chemicals in the brain like endorphins and serotonin, which help in reducing stress. This is also referred to as ‘runners high’, leading to a feeling of euphoria and a sense of well-being. Exercise increases endocannabinoid levels in the blood- biochemical substances alike cannabis but naturally generated by the body. Endocannabinoids lead to feelings of relaxation and alleviated anxiety after a run.

Reduction in stress

Apart from improving mood, regular exercise in the form of running also helps manage and reduce stress. Long-term running aids in the reduction of anxiety, tension and sadness. Exercise increases the chemical norepinephine which helps the brain tackle stress better. Running is also known to improve concentration and self-confidence, leading to a sense of achievement, which can benefit those with self-esteem issues.

Improvement in sleep

Running has been shown to improve the duration and quality of sleep. By working out during the day runners are likely to get tired and easily fall asleep at night. Chemicals released post-running help in relaxing the body, leading to deep sleep. Running helps in maintaining a normal sleep schedule, which is beneficial for one’s mental health.

Alleviates loneliness

Running also has other benefits like reducing feeling of isolation by facilitating more chances for social interactions. As runners often head to the streets, parks or running tracks, they are more likely to meet or interact with other runners and make new friends.

Running can be as effective as other aerobic exercises to cope with mental health concerns, but running is a more intense aerobic exercise that improves our health more efficiently in less time. Depending on one’s health concerns, consultation from experts may be required before running to avoid risking injury.

Tips for running:

It can be a little overwhelming for some people to make changes to their life. Some of the common barriers for getting out of a comfort zone to start exercising are lack of energy, thoughts of failure, weather, body image, social anxiety. Emotional support from a mental health expert does help in reducing the inhibitions to running.

● Start small, and build on - Running for at least 15 minutes thrice a week is a good way to start getting its benefits.

● Be mindful while running - Do a few minutes of deep breathing to help clear your mind for warm up. When you run, try to focus on your breathing, don't focus too much on thoughts, pay attention to your surroundings. If your mind becomes distracted, gently bring back your attention to the present moment. Reflect on how you are feeling while doing cool-down exercises.

● Make a schedule - Set weekly goals to make time for running. Rearrange your schedule to make time for running and rest.

● Be regular - Consistency is more important than having a perfect run or covering long distance. If you were not physically active recently it may take 1 or 2 months to feel that you can run comfortably.

● Find company - Running in a group or a marathon is a good way to motivate oneself to make it a regular part of the lifestyle.

It has been observed that the Pandemic has had a profound impact on mental health with people all over the world facing increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. Running has been proven to be an effective form of exercise to help combat these issues and improve overall well-being. It is an activity that can be done at any time, in any place, and with minimal equipment. It is also a great way to motivate oneself to make it a regular part of the lifestyle as it helps to keep your mind and body active and healthy. Additionally, running can boost your mood, reduce stress, and even improve sleep quality. In short, running is an excellent way to keep your mental and physical health in check.

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