7th October 2021
Therapeutic Benefits of Running for World Mental Health Day 2021
World Mental Health Day 2021 takes place on the 10th of October, providing an opportunity to highlight what we can all do to make mental health care a reality for everyone. As the world sits up to listen, understanding how to deal with mental health in different ways has never been more important: such as keeping active through exercise. Lacing up and hitting the pavement is a powerfully proven way to control stress and boost our ability to deal with mental tension. A study published in Acta Psychologica stated a short run is more effective at improving mood than meditating. Read on to learn how!
Primarily, running boosts our ability to deal with existing mental tension by increasing concentrations of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter (chemical) that helps moderate the brain's response to stress. As part of this response, norepinephrine affects how the brain pays attention and responds to situations, releasing a chemical that reduces anxiety to feel calmer. Low levels of norepinephrine can potentially lead to depression and hypotension (extremely low blood pressure).
Runners of all levels have been affected by depression, with elite athletes such as Olympian Simone Biles speaking publicly about her struggle. In 2017, a review of research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that professional athletes and nonathletes, such as recreational runners, experienced no difference in depressive symptoms. While running can't cure depression, it can temporarily lift depressive feelings. One of the most prominent components of depression is lethargy and lack of activity. When achieving a physical goal, such as hitting 5K or participating in a marathon, the euphoria of accomplishment increases self-confidence and releases those feel-good endorphins.
Improving Brain Performance
A form of cardiovascular exercise, running is known to promote neurogenesis which is the birth of new brain cells. The hippocampus is a specific region in the brain where new brain cells grow by exercising. A challenging run also increases levels of a brain-derived protein in the hippocampal region, believed to support vital brain functions such as decision-making and higher thinking. While the release of dopamine and other endorphins are known to be the immediate benefit of running, the impact on cognitive health is even more important in the long term.
parkrun: The Free Running Event for Everyone, Forever
There’s nothing like going for a run with others around to cheer you on. Events like parkrun are the perfect way to take care of your mental wellbeing whilst making meaningful connections with new like-minded people. The most prominent benefit to gain from joining a group run is the motivation and support you receive from each other. Since being founded by Paul Sinton-Hewitt in 2004, parkrun has become a phenomenal running movement worldwide. parkrun events offer a positive, welcoming, and inclusive experience where you can run at your own pace, and you don’t have to worry about reaching the finish line. If you're curious about joining, you can find a parkrun event in your local area here: https://www.parkrun.org.uk/events
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