9 Top Mental Benefits of Running Outside


Running is an exercise we find difficult to take up due to its strenuous nature. Whether running on a treadmill or outdoors, it takes your whole body’s energy to have a good run. Ideally, it is one of the most important exercises one should take up considering its cost implications and basic requirements. While we are largely aware of the physical benefits of running, it also has mental and emotional benefits. 

Come with me as we explore these additional gains.

·     Increased productivity

When we wake up, our bodies are still asleep, and there is that lazy feeling that creeps up. Taking a morning run will increase your momentum by around 80%. Needles to say, this is enough momentum to keep you productive for the rest of the day. 

Running clears your mind giving you a clean state to kick-start the day. A clear mind, as opposed to a clouded mind, will work to be most productive.

·     Reduced prevalence of depressive traits

Taking a morning run on a sunny day allows your body to produce vitamin D, which is a nutrient that can reduce your chances of getting depressive symptoms. These studies have shown most patients suffering from clinical depression have a deficiency of vitamin D. 

Further, running acts as a mechanism to manage inactivity that would otherwise translate to detestable practices (Bertone-Johnson, 2009).

·     Anxiety and stress management

Most people with anxiety attacks use running as one of the management techniques. A morning run has been found to relax the mind and consequently reducing anxiety levels. It is also associated with raising the ability of the body to deal with existing mental tension and control stress.

Running increases the concentrations of norepinephrine– a chemical that helps the brain moderate how it responds to stress. 

·     Reduces insomnia levels

Running increases your body temperature, which helps your body become more active. Consequently, when you get to relax, your body temperature drops, and the body automatically sets itself to sleep. 

Insomnia is linked to elevated arousal levels and anxiety that is well countered through physical exercise such as running. While dealing with insomnia, running eliminates the chances of distress and body weight disorders associated with a lack of sleep. 

·     Relief from pain

Long periods of inactivity are likely to cause pain or strain on your muscles. Your body tends to degenerate and cause muscle pain to build up. 

Running comes in handy by awakening and relaxing the rigid muscles. When you run, your body system becomes active, and pain won’t penetrate to the muscles as it is active regularly.

·     Improves your mood

Running, especially in good company uplifts jour spirits and activates a jovial mood. The company associated with joint running elevates your moods, making a dull day bright. It also acts as a catalyst to keep running when you know that the activity is not only refreshing but building up some connection with other runners.

·     Builds confidence.

Running helps you acquire confidence on an upward scale as your body is good and healthy. When your morale is boosted, it has a positive effect and keeps your mind and body on track. Running keeps us in good shape, allowing us to have that poise in our interactions with colleagues and partners. 

Importance of running to the brain

· Helps heals substance abuse

According to NIH, substance abuse like the use of Meth decreases the brain production of dopamine and serotonin and also burns out their receptors. Dopamine and serotonin are neurotransmitters that help one “feel good”. 

Running increases the production of these substances and helps to renormalize their functions. This leads to the restoration of brain functionality at its fullest capacity.

· Enhances learning ability

Running improves the brain’s capacity to learn and retain new information and new words. This is because while running the levels of production of protein BDNF (or brain-derived neurotrophic factor), and the neurotransmitter catecholamine is boosted, which are massively associated with the brain’s cognitive (and learning) functions.

· Protects your brain from aging

Scientists have proven that running reduces the rate of brain shrinkage. A study conducted among the elderly showed that those who engaged in running had a lower percentage of brain shrinkage compared to their counterparts who did not take part in the activity.

· Boosts brainpower

Running is a cardiovascular exercise, and it can help form new brain cells, therefore enhancing general brain performance. It also increases the levels of brain-derived protein in the body, which is believed to aid in learning, decision-making, and higher thinking (Lin, 2013).

Emotional benefits of running

· Improves mental focus

When you run, oxygen-rich blood gets pumped to your brain resulting in a long-term improvement in psychological processes. It also helps in focusing the attention on current things. Running enhances focus on the present and helps set aside things from the past or the future that might tend to worry you and distort your thoughtful attention.

· Builds self-esteem

Running comes hand in hand with setting and achieving goals. Runners often set targets and work on achieving the laid goals. The determination upheld in the running is carried onto other life activities whose completion gives a feeling of achievement. This enables you to approach issues with a positive mind and optimism.

· Builds mental toughness

Running is a tough exercise and requires you to push yourself beyond your comfort zone to achieve set targets. The pressure with running plays a role in building your mental toughness, which helps in difficult decision making.

Further, running provides a cushion during times where you are required to endure difficult situations as it is a strain you have previously dealt with.

· Relaxes your mind

Running provides an opportunity to meditate. It is a natural state where runners find themselves with random thoughts wandering around. Meditation during running brings ultimate relaxation allowing the body and mind to harmonize gently and makes you feel “Alive”.

Highlights

Running appears as one of the cheapest forms of exercise with a load of benefits

We cannot underestimate its role in boosting mental benefits as aforementioned, and this could be your opportune time to

  • Enhance productivity
  • Boost your brainpower
  • Developmental toughness
  • Get rid of insomnia
  • Adapt better stress relief
  • Increase your life-span through slow aging

Got any comments or questions? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

References

Bertone-Johnson, E. R. (2009). Vitamin D and the occurrence of depression: causal association or circumstantial evidence?. Nutrition reviews, 67(8), 481-492.

Lin, T. W., & Kuo, Y. M. (2013). Exercise benefits brain function: the monoamine connection. Brain sciences, 3(1), 39-53.

O’Dell SJ, e. (2020). Running wheel exercise ameliorates methamphetamine-induced damage to dopamine and serotonin terminals. – PubMed – NCBI. Retrieved 31 March 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21953518

Sifferlin, A. (2020). Exercise Trumps Brain Games in Keeping Our Minds Intact | TIME.com. Retrieved 31 March 2020, from  http://healthland.time.com/2012/10/23/exercise-trumps-brain-games-in-keeping-our-minds -intact/?utm_source=huffingtonpost.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=pubexchange_article

Winter B, e. (2020). High impact running improves learning. – PubMed – NCBI. Retrieved 31 March 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17185007

Robert Nichols

Robert is a full-time blogger, father of 1, and certified working and sharing fitness information. He also regularly contributes to wellnesscrave.com on the latest topics and trends in health & wellness. When he not writing she can be found running and doing intermittent fasting.

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