Here’s Why Going For A Run Is Our New Favorite Mental Health Routine
Heart pumping, sweat dripping, and miles under our shoes—there’s no better feeling than just finishing a run. With each and every stride, running brings us to our edge and leaves our body stronger than it was before. But is it as good for our mind as it is our body? As it turns out—a little jog around the park goes farther than most of us realize.
Does running benefit our mental health?
It’s no secret that exercise boosts our mood. We always tend to feel a little more glass-half-full after sweating it out. But with age-old talk about the infamous “runner’s high,” we’ve been wondering: Is running especially beneficial to our mental health? Spoiler alert: it is—but in ways you may not have known. With May being Mental Health Awareness month, there’s no better time to understand how this simple form of exercise can support our mind. And even more importantly, how we can experience its benefits for ourselves—from lacing up a new pair of New Balance sneakers to a running routine you can actually stick to.
Your brain on running.
Running is a form of aerobic exercise, or “any activity that uses large muscle groups, can be maintained continuously, and is rhythmic in nature.1” Aerobic exercise, like running, increases the body’s heart rate and its use of oxygen in response to a movement’s energetic demands. Along with many well-established physical benefits, like cardiovascular fitness2, decreased blood pressure3, and weight management, this kind of exercise does wonders for our mind. And with stress levels higher than ever for U.S. adults… We’re in need of solutions.
When we lace up our shoes, hit the trail, and turn up the pace, our body starts experiencing a form of “healthy stress.” In response to this stress4, our brain releases endorphins, AKA the feel-good hormones everyone knows and loves. But it also releases endocannabinoids, like anandamide (the “bliss” chemical) and neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. In other words, while you’re counting mile markers, your brain is at work mixing up a chemical cocktail that leaves you in a better mood.
Studies5 have shown that generally speaking, runners have reported lower levels of depression and anxiety, and higher levels of psychological well-being. Even individuals who are new to running have noted mental benefits like, “relief of tension, improved self-image, and better mood.” And even further, these benefits seem to extend far beyond the famed runner’s high: Research6 indicates that aerobic fitness (like running) has beneficial, long-term effects on our mental state.
Get your running routine started.
There’s plenty of science to show for why running is our new favorite mental health routine. But if it were easy, everyone would be doing it... And the truth is, running is a challenge. It takes real motivation, especially when Netflix is just a click away. So how do we get ourselves geared up and ready to claim some of those amazing benefits for ourselves? It can be as simple as these three steps:
Get the right running shoes
If you’ve ever gone for a run (or even ran after the ice cream truck), then you know: running asks a lot of the body. That’s why running should always start with supportive gear, like New Balance's very best running shoes, the Fresh Foam X 1080v12. With Fresh Foam underfoot cushioning for elite comfort, updated midsole mapping for more flexibility, and a bootie upper construction that hugs your foot for a perfectly snug fit—these shoes practically beg you to get a move on. Plus, their ultra-modern design is perfect for rocking an all-day style.
Find a running accountabili-buddy
After a long day, getting our run in requires us to dig deep, but a little motivation in the form of a running buddy can go a long way (literally). Find a friend who’s equally inspired to tap into the mental and physical benefits of running and plan regular times to run together. Or, simply lean on them with regular check-ins about the highs and lows of your runs. Inviting another person in on your progress is a great way to keep it moving forward.
Stick to a running plan, but be flexible
Seeing the many benefits splayed out before you, it may be tempting to throw yourself into a new running routine. But the best way to make a running habit stick is to start slowly and increase intensity overtime. A weekly running routine can help you segment an impressive long-term goal into inspiring and safe steps. Along with this structure, don’t forget that running is intended to be a physical and mental boost. Days off and flexibility are an important part of any running plan—so forgive yourself if you need to take a break! (And PSA: We’ve teamed up with New Balance to create some mood-boosting running plans… Coming soon!)
Devon Barrow is a Branded Content Editor at mindbodygreen. She received her degree from the University of Colorado. When she's away from her desk, Devon is teaching yoga, writing poetry, meditating, and traveling the world. She's based in Boulder, Colorado.
Devon's first book, Earth Women, is coming soon. To learn more, join the mailing list, and receive updates, head to www.devonbarrowwriting.com.