Regular running brings several benefits for our body. These include, for example, improved performance of the cardiovascular system, improved immune defense and strengthening of the muscles. In addition, running also has several positive effects on mental health. In this article, we will highlight 5 of these benefits.
1. Stress reduction
As soon as we run, our heart starts pumping harder and pushes the blood through our body at a higher speed. As a result, biochemical substances called endocannabinoids are produced and released in our body, causing the feeling of a “natural high” (you can learn more about Runners High here).
These stimulating hormones have a positive effect on the brain, helping to control and lower stress levels (and thus have similar effects to taking certain medications). So, people who suffer from anxiety can feel calmer through running, as they can cope better and more confidently with their daily challenges. Just 15 minutes of running a day can lead to a sense of psychological well-being that helps distract from everyday worries.
2. Mood improvement
Closely related to the previous point is the fact that regular running is an excellent mood lifter. In addition to stress, it helps to reduce depression. For example, when we run outside on a sunny day, our bodies produce vitamin D, a nutrient that can reduce depressive symptoms. Running can also have a positive effect on attitude, creating an enthusiasm and sense of accomplishment that then turns into real euphoria.
3. Mental illness prevention
As explained above, running can sometimes have similar effects to certain medications to relieve symptoms of illness. Running, or exercise in general, is therefore prescribed in some cases to improve certain mental illnesses.
In addition, exercise can help slow cognitive decline that begins at age 45.
Exercise, especially when practiced between the ages of 25 and 45, thus has the ability to increase chemicals in the brain that prevent hippocampal degeneration. Exercise is also a key element of what is known as “neurogenesis,” a process of forming new neurons in the brain. A 2012 study published in the journal Neurology showed that older people with higher levels of physical activity had greater white and gray matter density and less atrophy.
4. Brain power boost
As new brain cells are created through cardiovascular exercise, the performance of our brain also increases. In particular, 3 abilities are promoted:
Productivity: you know the feeling “the less I do, the more tired I am”. If you feel unmotivated, you should look for the solution in physical activity. It has been proven that people who exercise regularly are more productive than those who don’t. A short run in the morning or during a lunch break can provide energy and focus to go into the day with the right attitude. In fact, it is the adrenaline that our bodies generate from running that has this extraordinary effect!
Memory: several studies have shown that short and long running can increase the volume of the hippocampus (the part of the brain related to memory and learning). Therefore, the brain is more active and dynamic, it can remember, think and learn better.
Creativity: by producing dopamine in our body, running also helps to increase creativity. When there are problems at work or ideas run out, go running for half an hour to refresh your body and mind, and you will find that your creative flow is stronger than before!
5. Better sleep
What’s more, you sleep better thanks to running! Numerous studies show that regular exercise makes it easier for our bodies to develop a healthy sleep cycle. The chemicals released during and after running help relax the body, promoting deep sleep. This can also be helpful for people who suffer from insomnia.
In short, there are many benefits that running provides to our body and mind. Don’t stop running and continue to take care of your mental health!