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Running and Mental Health: Why We Should Embrace a Bit of Pace

While running isn’t the most glamorous or exciting of hobbies, committing yourself to a bit of daily exercise can do wonders for your mental health, argues Katie Brown.

Whether you’re running alone or alongside an accomplice to put the world to rights, running off last night’s Ben & Jerry regrets, or pounding the pavement for a personal record-breaking attempt, running is a great way of improving your mental health and wellbeing, as well as having the ability to alleviate symptoms of depression and improve your overall happiness.

It’s safe to say that when the vast majority of us think of running, we compile countless images of pained faces, crippled breathing and one’s desperate attempt to alleviate the torture of the time already spent on your feet – yet really when you turn your head you realise the front door is still within reasonable visibility.

Though running generally can feel like a strenuous, laborious task that has remained on the bottom of the priority list for the last five years, there is a lot more to the activity that we can all really reap some benefits from and truly lessen some of its undeserved hatred – you guessed it, I am the alien species that loves running.

So if it isn’t the rush of the body’s own happy pill, endorphins, that keeps you coming back for more, it will be other benefits such as these:

Running reduces anxiety

Even though just the prospect of running might be enough to raise one’s level of anxiety right up until the first step, Fitness expert and Chief Trainer at the Academy of Fitness Professionals, Peter Lemon recommends running as a means of reducing anxiety.Aerobic exercise, such as jogging, has been shown to reduce both generalised anxiety and anxiety sensitivity” he says. “If you are the kind of person who suffers from panic attacks, then reaching for the running shoes will help you to feel better faster than hiding under the duvet”.

It also encourages social interaction

Though running can sometimes be perceived to be an activity of solitude, by running either in the gym, through running clubs or participating in mass-organised races, it can help form friendships in the form of running buddies (cute, eh?). Making friends through running can become a great social support for those suffering from depression and may help to reduce anxiety in other, more socially-demanding situations. You can do this either in the gym, through running clubs or by participating in mass-organised races.

Running can help to improve your sleep…

Where insomnia has often been proven to worsen the symptoms of depression, regular exercise will improve sleep quality as the transition between sleep cycles becomes more regular too. Psychological approaches to anxiety expert, Jessica Johns-Green says, “When we exercise hormonal and biological forces are at work, these lead us to feel less stressed and have more energy, plus help us to sleep better and feel refreshed when we wake.”

…as well as giving you a goal, or a purpose, to strive for

Whatever the goal may be, running for 10 minutes or breaking your 5km personal best, studies have found that daily goals in the form of positive activities can help alleviate depression and improve mental health.

Finally, running can improve your confidence

Often when suffering with depression or for long periods of feeling down, our overall self-worth and confidence is at rock bottom. On a very basic level, physical fitness can boost self-esteem and improve positive self-image. Regardless of weight, size, gender or age, exercise can quickly elevate a person’s perception of his or her attractiveness and boosting their self-worth.

So with our backs almost turned on the cold and gloomy winter days, we can perhaps all try and embrace some pace and learn to incorporate a bit of running in our lives.

Images via Milly Voice  

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