Give Your Head A Workout: Running for Mental Health

By now, we all know the physical health benefits of running, but what is becoming a much more popular reason to run is the huge benefits it can have on your mental state. Due to the fact that running is a high impact sport and a weight-bearing exercise, it is fantastic at helping to build strong bones. It also massively improves cardiovascular fitness whilst also helping to maintain a healthy weight; but what about the mind?

Running allows your mind to rid itself of the daily stresses and forces you to focus on the simple art of putting one foot in front of the other. I speak from experience when I say that being out on the road and putting your body through a tough run is one of the few times in life that you have complete control over what thoughts enter your head and which ones don’t. You choose what to add weight to and what to let pass. Most sports don’t put you in this position and this is why running is one of the best sports for treating the mind as well as the body.

I’m not just speaking from experience, there’s also some pretty serious science behind this,

  1. It’s shown that a heart-pumping run can increase creativity for at least 2 hours post-run; no more time wasted staring at a blank page, get those legs moving and see what happens.
  1. A strong run can help boost brain power, believed to help with decision-making, higher thinking and learning.
  1. The chemicals released during and after exercise can help people experiencing anxiety feel calmer. Whether you’re hopping on a treadmill, track, trail or sidewalk, getting your body moving is a healthy way of coping with tough times.

Ultimately, running doesn’t just improve the performance of your body, it helps shape and control the mind so your every day is that little bit easier.

“If you don’t have the answers to your problems after a four hour run, you ain’t getting them” Christopher McDougall

Written by Tom Loughran