Running has many benefits for our mental health and is one of the best natural mood enhancers for greater well-being. What has always been known has been affirmed again by scientific research performed since the outbreak of the Corona pandemic. An international study with 14,000 participants confirms the subjective data: 82% of UK-based participants stated that running helps to clear their head, and 65% found that running is better for this than any other sport.
Maybe you’ve noticed it yourself: going for a jog after a stressful day is relaxing, rejuvenating, and brings you home with a smile on your face. But where do the mental health effects of running come from? We took a closer look.
By the way, you don’t have to run a marathon to enjoy the benefits of running. Even when jogging as a beginner, you get your money’s worth.
#1 Running is a break for your brain
In more ways than one! Running stimulates blood circulation and promotes the exchange of metabolic waste products. Your brain also gets plenty of oxygen, which keeps you awake and alert and frees your mind for new thoughts, ideas, and projects. That’s why runners talk about “clearing their heads.”
#2 Fun instead of stress
Challenging workouts increase the release of endorphins and neurotransmitters that neutralize the brain’s perception of stress. So, a run is the perfect reset when you’re feeling stressed. After your run, you can go back to work feeling more relaxed.
With a little practice and regular running, by the way, your body becomes more and more used to this serenity. One study found that regular running can have a positive longterm influence on the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that is responsible for affects and emotions, among other things.
#3 Your cognitive skills improve
Studies indicate that running and sports improve cognitive performance. Among other things, training is said to have a positive effect on memory, mental flexibility and information processing in the brain. According to the researchers, this is presumably due to the combination of biochemical processes as well as the direct psychological effects, such as the reduced sense of stress and “running head clear.
#4 More willpower
Running in wind and weather trains your mental strength and gives your inner slacker no chance. This makes him weaker and weaker and you stronger and stronger. You train yourself to choose what is good for you. Even if it seems exhausting or uncomfortable. Because you know that it is worth it and you have learned that positive change takes place outside the comfort zone.
#5 You’re in a better mood and become an optimist
Constantly feeling too tired, too cold, and wondering “what’s even the point?” In addition to willpower, running also trains a positive attitude towards life. Once you’ve managed to get out in the worst weather, you’ll find that it’s fun in spite of it, or even because of it. The paths are empty, you can jump over puddles, and just be really proud of yourself and your discipline. Who doesn’t love the sound of that? This kind of mindset helps you focus on the beautiful sides of every situation and the silver linings in the clouds.
#6 Doubts become opportunities
Let’s stick with the “running changes your perspective” theme. When you run, you quickly learn that you can perform in ways you would’ve thought impossible before, and that carries over to your personal and professional life. Instead of burying your head in the sand before at every challenge, you are able to think step by step about the best way to achieve your goal, like preparing for a half marathon.
#7 Running is freeing
Running is the me-time that often comes too short and too infrequently in everyday life and yet that each of us urgently needs. Of course, you can also grab a friend and use your run to socialize, but you don’t have to. Hang out with your thoughts, turn off your head, listen to your favorite music or that podcast you never find time for, or just listen to the world and your steps. As long or short, as fast or slow as you want. You decide freely according to what feels good for you today.
#8 You’ll never count sheep again
Those who sleep more deeply wake up more refreshed. Those who are refreshed and regenerated can concentrate well, are more balanced, and have more energy. And those who run more sleep better, simply because your stress levels are lower, your thoughts are calmer, and your body is more tired. So, regular running brings you into a healthy cycle of physical exhaustion and mental recovery.
#9 You’ll have a healthy appetite
Regular runners develop a good sense of self-awareness and learn to adapt their nutrition to the needs of their body. Especially for ambitious runners, nutrition is the key to athletic success. However, the right foods and dishes not only make you faster and stronger, but keep you healthy and well-balanced.
And those who eat healthily are less likely to have energy lows, “hangry” feelings, and sugar cravings. This is another way in which running contributes to mental well-being.
Your well-being comes before your fitness plan
Remember that a good exercise plan and discipline are important, but they’re not everything. Sometimes it’s best to just listen to your body and run as fast and long as it feels good without a clock or goal in mind. As long as you’re not preparing for a half marathon, it can make sense to train intuitively, especially during stressful times in your life.
Try different training techniques and find out when it’s just your inner slacker talking and when you actually need to take it easy in order to benefit from the mental health effects of running.
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