We all know that running is good for our physical health, but what about our mental health?
When we exercise our bodies release serotonin, dopamine and endorphins – our natural “happy hormones”.
Think back to the last time you did some physical activity – that post- workout buzz that you experience is due to the release of those happy hormones.
Imagine if you had a bicycle and you left it in your shed over winter – eventually the bike would start to rust and become stiff and difficult to use. Our bodies act in the same way – if we become inactive, we are more likely to experience aches and pains because we are not using our bodies. When we start to feel pains we become even more inactive, eventually leading us to feel lethargic and low in mood, simply because we don’t feel good. Afterall, who would ever be in a good mood when they’re feeling unwell?
This is where running comes in – not only are we keeping ourselves active, therefore feeling good physically, but it also gives us a sense of achievement and focus, therefore a much better frame of mind. We know that running cannot solve all of our problems, however when we are in a better frame of mind, it is easier for us to deal with difficult situations than if we are already feeling depressed.
The same can also be said for using running/exercise to help manage anxiety and stress. When we feel anxious our bodies release adrenaline. When we release adrenaline we go into “fight or flight” mode as its our bodies natural built in alarm system designed to protect us from danger. Our hearts might start beating faster, breathing gets quicker, our minds are racing. Now this would be perfect if we were in a situation whereby we could fight the threat, or take flight, such as a lion waiting to attack us. The heart beats faster to get the blood to our muscles and breathing increases to flood our bodies with oxygen so that we are ready to react. When we then fight the lion or run away to safety, that adrenaline is used up in the way that its designed to be, and those physical symptoms reduce. Unfortunately, the type of situations that most often cause us anxiety or stress in the modern world, are not usually things we can easily fight or run away from – work, family, busy places etc. So the adrenaline lasts longer in our bodies and we might notice physical symptoms such as palpitations, a tight chest or headaches. This brings us back to running – a natural, healthy way to use up this adrenaline and therefore reduce stress. Think about how much more relaxed you felt the last time you went for a run. This is why. And prevention is always better than cure – so if you make exercise part of your weekly routine, you’re more likely to be able to keep stress at a manageable level rather letting it build up.
So if your cardio health wasn’t reason enough, pick up those trainers and run for your mental health!