Running certainly good for the body, but evidence reveals that it has many important benefits for the mind as well. Whether you’re a casual runner or a dedicated marathoner, your running routine can confer a number of positive mental effects.
Changes in the Brain
Running can help train the mind as much as it trains the body. You learn to focus and with determination can overcome obstacles and fatigue. It also leads to changes inside the brain itself.
In a study published in the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, November 2016, researchers scanned the brains of competitive distance runners. What they found was that the runners had more connections between the frontal-parietal network and other areas of the brain that are associated with self-control and working memory. The researchers believe this is due to the increased aerobic capacity and cognitive demands of running.
Boosts Self-Esteem and Confidence
Researchers found that participating in physical activity such as running, and jogging are directly related to better self-esteem. In the study, they found that regular exercise led to improved perceptions of fitness and improved body image, both of which were linked to improved self-esteem.
Stress relief is another valuable benefit of running or jogging. Going for a jog might improve your mood in the short-term by helping get your mind off a specific problem, but it can also lead to longer-lasting stress relief benefits.
Experiencing runner’s high’ can trigger feel-good emotions that can boost your mood and reduce stress. These positive feelings are experienced because running triggers the release of endorphins. Using brain imaging, researchers have shown that a long-distance run increased opioid binding throughout several areas of the brain, which resulted in participants feeling a sense of euphoria.
Improvements in Mood
In addition to relieving the stresses of our daily lives, running and jogging can have positive influences on your attitude. The endorphin rush you feel during a run can lead to that burst of well-being or just a general sense of happiness.
There is some evidence that engaging in exercise such as running may specifically help alleviate symptoms of mood and anxiety disorders. One study reported by the Cochrane Library ‘Exercise for Depression,’ September 2013, found that exercise was moderately more effective than no therapy, for reducing depressive symptoms.
However, the study found that exercise was no more effective than antidepressants. Less tension, less depression, less fatigue, and less confusion are just a few of the changes that patients experienced after beginning a running program. Running may give something for them to focus on, allowing them to see something, besides their depressed state or addiction.
Running or jogging is not a mental health panacea and more research is needed to determine its impact on the prevention and treatment of psychological conditions. This is especially important as depression is often characterised by feelings of flow energy and loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, so people with depression may find it difficult to motivate themselves to benefit from running or jogging.