Running | 5 mental benefits of running you may not know about
While the physical benefits are well-established, plenty of evidence suggests there are many mental benefits of running.
No matter if you are already running or not, you probably know that hitting the pavement strengthens your lungs and your legs. While the physical benefits of running are well-established, plenty of evidence suggests running can improve your mental health, too. Learn more about the mental benefits of running below.
Running reduces stress
Running gives you a break from whatever is going on in the wider world around you and provides a quiet, mindful experience. But the amazing gift that is running doesn't stop there — much more is at work in your brain. The stress-reducing effects of a good run are the work of endocannabinoids - a group of neurotransmitters that travel in and around the brain. Once they get into the brain, they have the ability to reduce feelings of stress. These chemicals are produced in higher-than-normal concentrations during your runs, and endocannabinoids are actively working to soothe your mind at the same time.
Running develops a calmer state of mind
No, running is not the most boring sport. Quite the contrary. If you start running and let go for a while, fairly quickly you will be able to notice the mental benefits of running that your brain plunges into a meditative state. This state helps you to journey deep into yourself and enables you to put your thoughts and emotions in order. Running creates the perfect conditions for greater inner peace and calmer state of mind.
Running fights depression
The mental health benefits of running go even further. Although the exact mechanism isn't fully understood yet, there is an emerging body of research to indicate that regular exercise, including running, can help to reduce symptoms of depression. David Linden, Ph.D., a professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine notes, "Exercise has a dramatic antidepressive effect. It blunts the brain's response to physical and emotional stress."
Running builds mental strength
Running makes you adept at overcoming obstacles. No matter if you are new to running or a seasoned runner, you will experience feelings of tired legs and heavy breathing, perhaps even a feeling of not wanting to run anymore. If you can overcome that feeling and don’t quit, it is a victory. When you win over your negative voice, which asks you to stop, you will develop confidence and build mental strength which is one of the mental benefits of running.
Running improves brain performance
The mental benefits don’t stop when you finish your run — there is some solid evidence to suggest that a running routine can actually make your brain an even more incredible thinking machine than it already is. Regular cardiovascular exercise sparks growth of new blood vessels to nourish the brain. Exercise may also produce new brain cells in certain locations through a process called neurogenesis, which may lead to an overall improvement in brain performance. As a result, running has been shown to improve memory, focus, and creative thinking while even slowing cognitive decline.
Clearly, the mental health benefits of running are wide-reaching and well-established. Running does not only give you a break from the stress of life and helps you to stay calmer and feel happier, but it can also restructure your brain in such a way that it functions better, faster, and with less stress. Whether your goals are physical, mental, or both, running has you covered.