Running has well-known physical advantages. But, the mental benefits of running are often overlooked. Starting a running routine can be a mental challenge for some, but once that initial hurdle is overcome, the stress-relieving effects of running can be incredibly valuable.
If you have friends or family members that run, you may be familiar with the term “runner’s high.” After jogging for 3 miles, the runners in your life may have some extra pep in their step instead of feeling completely wiped out as you’d imagine. This is due to the chemicals that running, or any exercise, releases in your brain. “The runner’s high is caused by our brains releasing endorphins, the feel-good hormone. Exercise also slows the release of stress hormones like cortisol, which can help you avoid those big spikes in feelings of stress and anxiety.” Hurford
It may seem counterintuitive, but engaging in physical activity that challenges the body can reduce stress. This is because, during exercise, the brain releases chemicals that positively impact our emotional well-being.
“Exercise can provide stress relief for your body while imitating effects of stress, such as the flight or fight response, and helping your body and its systems practice working together through those effects.” In other words, running puts your body under a steady state of stress that helps the different bodily systems fight off the pressure. Therefore, healthy stress induces healthy benefits. Mayo Clinic
Besides the physical mechanisms that reduce stress, running offers a simple and effective way to take a break from daily stressors. It allows you to set aside time to focus on one task and tune out distractions, similar to a moving meditation. During a run, you can shift your attention away from troubling news or work pressures and focus on the present moment and the path ahead.
Incorporating running into your routine can be a beneficial way to manage stress and maintain physical fitness. However, it’s essential to consider your health and speak with a doctor before starting a new exercise program. Running requires time and patience to improve, so don’t be discouraged if you cannot run long distances right away. Over time, as you build endurance, the physical and mental benefits of running will become more apparent and help you better cope with daily stress.
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