Running in all its forms offers an exhilarating and refreshing experience. You get the opportunity to feel the wind in your face and view the world in all its glory. Your physical limits are tested each time as you push yourself to carry on even when your muscles tire. And this is why each run is followed by an overwhelming and unmatched sensation of happiness and accomplishment.

According to a study conducted by the England Athletics, 73% of runners experience a considerable improvement in their mental and physical well-being. Out of these, 90% have claimed that running as part of a group has caused them to be happier. It is facts like this that cause many to wonder whether running has a deeper impact on the human mind. So, here we have put together a detailed account of how running impacts your mental health:

Zatopek 10: 2017. Photo by Ewa Facioni
  1. Alleviates symptoms of depression

When feeling blue, a leisurely sprint can work wonders as it is thought to be as effective as psychotherapy in overcoming depression. This was unveiled in a study that analyzed participants’ response to three depression interventions i.e. running, CBT and a combination of the two. All three groups experienced a considerable decline in symptoms of depression. Moreover, little difference if any was found between the outcome of running and cognitive behavioural therapy. This is because it helps improve the imbalance in endorphins and serotonin (brain chemicals) levels that lead to depression.

In addition to this, depression and anxiety often lead to decreased physical activity that in turn aggravates the condition. So, if you force yourself to take your running shoes for spin; you are actively overcoming a crucial symptom of the ailment.

  1. Increases learning abilities

Both easy pace and fast pace running improve your capacity to process and retain new information. This finding was first published in Neurobiology of Learning and Memory and stated that both these types of running boosted the brain’s cognitive function. This is because they increase levels of BDNF protein and neurotransmitter catecholamine in the brain. Moreover, the study also found these learning benefits to be greater in the case of high-intensity running.

  1. Sharpens the memory function

Running has been associated with a sharpened memory since a long time. However, it was only recently that scientists were able to prove a direct link between the two phenomena. A study by National Institute on Aging published has found that running increased the levels of the Cathepsin-B protein in the body. This protein is secreted by the muscle tissue in response to running and is transmitted to the brain. There it prompts nerve cells to produce factors that are necessary for the growth of neurons this impacting memory. The study also revealed that to keep memory sharp, it is essential to keep running on a regular basis.

  1. Keeps degenerative cognitive ailments at bay

Van Praag also found in her research that running has other far-reaching implications for mental well-being as it leads to improved cognition and therefore keeps dementia at bay. This discovery by Praag is groundbreaking considering that dementia is one of the leading causes of death affecting people worldwide.

In addition to this, scientists are also of the view that dementia is caused by lifestyle choices as well as genetics. This factor in particular causes concern in anyone with a family history of the ailment. It is therefore recommended that anyone at risk of the ailment make use of brain tests and dementia tests to detect the presence of any cognitive impairment. They can then use the information provided by these tests to determine whether they need to adopt the habit of running so as to stave off the ailment.

  1. Slows the ageing process

A research published in Time Magazine has found that running acts as a buffer against cognitive ageing. The research attempted to compare the effects of physical exercise and mind games on the cognitive ageing of elderly mice. It found that physical activity such as running was more effective in defying age. This was proved on the basis of brain scans of the mice that exhibited lowered cognitive decline in response to physical activity.

  1. Improves the quality of your sleep

Research has also found runners to pave the way for a good night’s sleep. This is because it increases daytime alertness, regulates circadian rhythms and facilitates the onset of deep sleep. In addition to this, running has also alleviates the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea and insomnia.

  1. Enhances self-esteem

A study conducted on adolescent girls has unveiled that running can work wonders in boosting your self-esteem. The participants of the study were asked to run laps and were then analysed via a tool called Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run or PACER. The tool found a positive correlation between the number of laps and the level of self-esteem of the girls. These findings were reinforced by another research that proved running to positively affect the self-esteem of overweight children.

  1. Boosts creativity

Running increases creativity according to a research published in British Journal of Sports Medicine. This is because bodily movements associated with running help overcome blocks in the human mind.

  1. Inhibits unhealthy cravings

Interestingly enough, running has also been found to improve your likeness of healthy dietary choices. In addition to this, it also helps stave off craving for drugs like marijuana as indicated by a a study conducted at Vanderbilt University. Other researches have also highlighted the efficacy of running in overcoming cravings for alcohol, meth and cocaine.


Author Bio:

Evie Harrison is a blogger by choice.  She loves to discover the world around her. She likes to share her discoveries, experiences and express herself through her blogs.

Find her on Twitter:@iamevieharrison