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6 Ways Running Improves Mental Health

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6 Ways Running Improves Mental Health


While you may already know about the many physical benefits running provides, it can also do wonders for mental alertness, mood, and even your confidence. It’s never too late to become a runner.

1.) Lowers Stress and Anxiety


Running is the perfect way to help slash stress, as exercise and spending time outdoors appear to work wonders to help you relax. A 2014 review published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that aerobic exercise, such as running, seems to help reduce symptoms of anxiety. So the next time you’re feeling stressed and anxious about something, put on your running shoes and hit the trails as a natural form of therapy.

2.) Fights Depression

If you’re feeling blue more often than not, you might be fighting a case of depression. While running shouldn’t take the place of seeing a licensed medical professional when you’re feeling depressed, it can certainly help ease symptoms. A 2012 study published in ACSMs Health and Fitness Journal found that exercise appears to be just as effective for treating depression and improving symptoms as therapy and medication. Researchers who conducted the study say that even low levels of exercise, especially aerobic exercise, are associated with improving depression, but that the optimal amount of physical activity needed to produce results isn’t entirely clear. You’ll just have to go and find out 🙂

8 Ways Running Improves Mental Health

3.) Boosts Confidence

Running helps boost mood and lower anxiety (even social anxiety), which is a confidence booster in itself. You can gain great confidence from learning what you can achieve with your own two feet. Many people who begin running training programs also notice drastic changes in their bodies over time, which can also help to boost confidence.

4.) Helps you Relax

Running is a great way to help you relax, and you don’t have to push yourself to the max to reap relaxation benefits of being a runner. To help make runs as relaxing as possible, avoid running through large crowds of people, alongside heavy traffic, or among lots of bricks and concrete. Instead, choose nature trails, beach fronts, or scenic country roads surrounded by lots of wildlife.

RELATED: Running in Yosemite National Park – An Earth Day Treat

5.) Boosts Mental Alertness and Concentration

Having trouble focusing at work or school? Working out may be just what you need to boost mental alertness and concentration, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Feeling “antsy” or restless is common among desk job workers who are sitting all day every day. So, next time you’re feeling restless, try going for a run before you begin your day to test your ability to focus and concentrate. If you’re not up for running first thing in the morning, then another great way to work on your focus and concentration is by doing low impact, high intensity gym workouts at home, like using a balance trainer or friction trainer.

RELATED: Trail Running and Mindfulness

8 Ways Running Improves Mental Health

6.) Helps you Sleep Better

Regular exercise is known to help improve your sleep, as long as you aren’t working out just before you catch your zzz’s. Better sleep helps maximise overall cognitive function and boost concentration. Anywhere between 7 and 9 hours each night is a good amount to aim for.

The Verdict

There’s so much evidence to suggest that running improves mental health. Running is an excellent way to keep your body and mind young, while you also get to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the great outdoors!

So…. make sure you get out running on the trails asap… you’ll thanks us later 😉 Be sure to go prepared on your outdoor runs. Choose a hydration pack to help avoid dehydration during long runs, a cell phone carrier in case of an emergency, and reflective gear to help motorists steer clear of you.

Visit our ‘advice‘ category for great running tips and browse other great articles on Trail & Kale for more inspiration.

Briana Bell
Briana Bell
Guest Author for Trail & Kale.


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