Most people who run do so because they want to benefit from a number of physical side effects. The hope is usually that running will make us healthier, fitter and slimmer than we otherwise would be and so we force ourselves out that door as often as we can bear in order to improve our wellness and hopefully improve our chances of meeting that special someone.
But if you run regularly then the good news is that you won’t just be enhancing your body. In fact running can be equally good for your brain and there are a vast number of psychological benefits to regular runs. Read on to see what a few of those are…
Running can seriously improve your mood in a number of ways and is one of the best ‘natural antidepressants’ out there. The first way this works is through the production of certain hormones associated with feeling good. Running will help you to produce serotonin and dopamine to such an extent that some people even describe a ‘runners’ high’ which is the feeling of elation and energy you get after completing a run.
Another way in which running can improve your mood is by getting you outdoors. Studies have demonstrated that simply being exposed to natural environments can help to boost mood and energy levels and even to increase creativity. This is why most offices will feature at least a plant or two on the desk – that alone can be enough to stimulate more creativity and to fight work-related stress.
Running can also help you to focus and to get a chance to think and this can provide the perfect respite if you’re constantly under pressure at home and at work then this can leave your brain constantly bombarded with things you should be doing and constantly working and worrying.
Some people use running as an actual form of meditation or just a chance to think/forget their other worries. Focus on the run and you can find yourself falling into a state of mind that provides a very welcome break from our usual busy and stressful thoughts. If you need a break from everything then heading out for a run is a great way to accomplish that and will also physically remove you from the usual things that disturb your rest and relaxation (such as the phone).
Running doesn’t just make you calmer and happier though, it can also actually make you smarter by enhancing your memory and concentration. Running has been shown in many cases to help increase memory and prevent cognitive decline in the elderly – and has even been linked to ‘neurogenesis’ which is the creation of new brain cells and which was previously thought to be impossible past a certain age. Other studies have shown how running can boost vocabulary retention (helping you to learn new words) and increase production of the protein (BDNF) which can help with decision making and learning.
Running can also help to improve your brain and psychology indirectly by boosting your health and helping your intelligence as a result. One of the best known health benefits of running for instance is that it can help to encourage healthy and deep sleep during the night and this in turn will be conducive to the formation of new memories (this is one of the important roles of REM sleep), to better concentration and energy during the day and to improvements in your mood.
Running will also help to improve your cardiovascular health. That means that it will improve the strength of your heart and thus your circulation. This ultimately means more oxygen and minerals getting to every part of your brain – including your brain. Running regularly will also help to get you outdoors more meaning more fresh air and sunlight, and it will help to build muscles in your leg and reduce fat, all of which have great benefits for your brain.
Running is also a great test for your will-power and determination which can later transfer to other areas in your life. When running you will find yourself constantly wanting to give up from tiredness, from illness or from phlegm build up. But if you can keep pushing towards your goal, you’ll be showing yourself that you can accomplish anything – and this in turn will hopefully help you to progress towards other goals and to hang tight when the going gets tough.
Finally, seeing as running will help you to lose weight, build muscle and improve your overall fitness, you’ll find that it also does wonders for your self-esteem. Looking good makes us feel good – and when you feel good the sky is really the limit.