If you have been feeling stressed out running may be the last thing on your mind, but it can actually be a powerful tool to help lift your spirits. Running can be just as effective as medicine in combating these sinking feelings. In fact studies show there are many mental health benefits that come from running.
Decrease Symptoms of Depression
Not just running but all aerobic exercise help balance out the harmful effects of stress hormones, such as cortisol, by producing endorphins – the happiness hormone. Endorphins act as natural antidepressants and boost mental health.
This increase in endorphins is what’s called a “runner's high”, a feeling runners describe as a peaceful and relaxing sensation that washes over them after a long run.
Sharpens Your Memory
Running has been shown to help sharpen your memory. In one study elderly rats were exposed to short bouts (4-6 min) of exercise on a treadmill during five consecutive weeks. This mild-intensity exercise program increased muscle oxygen consumption and reversed age-related long-term spatial learning and memory impairments.
Helps Protect Brain From Aging
As we age, our brains get smaller. Nerves die off, losing their connections, and that leads to a thinned out network feeding our thinking functions. According to a study published in Times Magazine physical exercise has been shown to help keep our brains more elastic and be an effective buffer against the effects aging even more so than brain games.
Running has been shown to help you can a better night's sleep. Unlike stressing about work or running errands throughout the entire day, running uses up your energy in the best possible way. You will be tired, but not exhausted; so running limits insomnia by regulating your energy levels and sleep time.
As published in Psychology Today running as been shown to strengthen circadian rhythms, promoting daytime alertness and helping bring on sleepiness at night.
Higher Energy Levels
While running can give you a better sleep it also gives you more stable energy throughout your days. It only takes three days of aerobic exercise per week to eliminate daily fatigue and lethargy in the long term.
This is because aerobic activities encourage blood flow to your brain and supply it with oxygen. This results in better function and an improved, uplifted mood so you can be more motivated to do your daily tasks.
Boosts Your Self Esteem
Studies have found links between running and a boosted self esteem. It is you versus yourself out there and by setting your own challenges and conquering them this will lift your spirits. A study was taken on a group of adolescent girls who were asked to run laps. Those who achieved higher PACER (Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run) scores, by running more laps at a faster pace, reportedly exhibited higher levels of self-esteem. In other studies, overweight kids who participated in aerobic exercise like running also experienced a lift in self-esteem.
Run For Your Soul
Running comes with so many tremendous health benefits both physical and mental. For something that in a sense is as easy as strapping on a pair of shoes and putting one foot in front of the other it seems like a no brainer to take advantage of all the awesome benefits running brings. So next time you are feeling down try going for a run a few days in a row and watch as the clouds clear. Cheers!