Running and mental health

Running has its benefits, as well as disadvantages. Yes, it’s good for cardiovascular health, helps build muscle, and also helps take care of our minds, but without the right running shoes or us understanding how to run well, running can cause injury. Running can cause pressure on the knees, leading to damage to the knee joint.

Its benefits are clear. As you begin to run, your respiratory system starts working harder as you mentally prepare yourself to go out on your run. As you push yourself to go faster, the body starts releasing endorphins, which acts as a stimulant, resulting in a ‘natural high’ making you feel better.

Running does provide a number of mental health benefits:

  • Running can help control stress and boost the body’s ability to cope with tension. Exercise also increases production of chemicals that helps moderate the brain’s response to stress;
  • While running may help boost the brain’s ability to minimise and slow cognitive decline that begins after age 45. Working out, especially between age 25 and 45, boosts the chemicals in the brain that support and prevents degeneration of that part of the brain used for memory and learning;
  • Running on a sunny day helps your body produce vitamin D, a nutrient which reduces your likelihood of experiencing depressive symptoms;
  • The chemicals released during and after running can help people experiencing anxiety feel calmer;
  • For some, a moderate run can be the equivalent of a sleeping pill, even for people with insomnia. Exercising around five to six hours before bedtime raises the body’s core temperature and when the body temp drops back to normal a few hours later, it signals the body that it’s time to sleep;
  • Cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells and improve overall brain performance. A tough run increases levels of certain proteins in the brain, believed to help with decision-making, higher thinking and learning;
  • A run can boost creativity for up to two hours afterwards.

Research shows that workers who take time for exercise on a regular basis are more productive and have more energy than those who are less active. While busy schedules can make it difficult to exercise in the middle of the day, some experts believe that midday is the ideal time for a workout due to the body’s natural circadian rhythms.

It’s not just running that’s good for mental health. Going to the gym is also good for mental health. All cardiovascular exercise is good for our health, but remember moderation is key.


20 Dec, 2019

2 thoughts on “Running and mental health

  1. I have known how good running is for mental health for a long time, but unfortunately I struggle to run because I have problems with my knees.

    A friend of mine took up running when he was getting divorced last year, never having run before. After a few months training, he now regularly takes part in marathons and half marathons to raise money for charities and will freely admit that running has changed his life.

    As you say, any cardiovascular exercise is beneficial both physical and mentally, but not if it is taken to the extreme, as it can then become addictive and harmful.

    1. Thanks. Yes, it’s sometimes hard mentally to adapt to something you want to do, but you know it’ll make you worse.

      Running is known to be addictive, the more you run, the more you want to run. I also think it’s important to understand how to run.

      It’s not just about putting one foot in front of the other, it’s how we land that makes the difference in running.

      It’s also important to make sure you’re wearing good running shoes. Not everyone thinks about that, but it does make a difference not only to how you run, but it will help avoid injury.

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