It’s Mental: 6 ways running benefits your mind

Many of us are well aware of the physical benefits of running. It can help you maintain a healthy weight. It’s effective at preventing muscle and bone loss. It also helps to lower your risks for stroke, diabetes, hypertension and a host of other physical ailments. However, not all of us are aware of how beneficial running can be for our mental health. Here are six amazing ways running is good for your mind:

1. Running decreases symptoms of depression.

Feeling stressed or down in the dumps? Lace up those running shoes because multiple studies have found that jogging and even brisk walking are effective at reducing the symptoms of clinical depression. In fact, in one study, running was found to be as effective as psychotherapy at treating depression.

2. Running improves your ability to learn.

Yes, science suggests that running can actually make you smarter. Both high-intensity running in the form of anaerobic sprints and low-impact aerobic running have been found to improve a person’s capacity to learn and retain new information.

3. Running protects your brain from aging.

A study published in Time Magazine found that running acts as a buffer against the affects of aging on the brain. Scientists concluded that physical exercise, such as running, was effective at lowering the rate of brain shrinkage and cognitive decline in elderly adults who were physically active.

4. Running alleviates anxiety.

Studies cited by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America suggests that running and other forms of vigorous exercise can help you relax and may work as well as medication in relieving anxiety.

5. Running is a natural sleep aid.

Research shows that running can help regulate circadian rhythms, heighten daytime alertness, promote quicker onset of sleep, and enhance deeper sleep and the reduction of symptoms in those with insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea.

6. Running helps the brain heal from substance abuse.

According to Candice Rasa, Clinical Director of Beach House Center for Recovery in Florida, this holds true even when the drug in question is as potent a substance as meth.

“Meth decreases the brain’s production of dopamine and serotonin and burns out their receptors,” she writes. “Running, on the other hand, helps to re-normalize the function of these two key ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters, and boosts their production.”

To experience the mental health benefits of running, come join the RunningWorks Team for a run. We meet at 9:45 a.m. every Tuesday and Friday at RWHQ (901-E N. Tryon Street). Email info@runningworks.org for more information.