Running and Mental Health by Jo Pavey
Running has long been known to benefit physical health in so many ways such as by increasing fitness levels, improving cardiovascular health and strengthening joints and muscles. But in recent times it’s brilliant that the positive impact running can have on mental health has been more publicised and discussed. Many people have shared inspiring personal stories of how their mental well-being has been dramatically improved by running, sometimes life changing, and this has undoubtedly encouraged others to take up running and enjoy the benefits.
We all have times in our life when we feel down and everything seems to be getting on top of us or we feel overwhelmed, worrying about how everything can be fitted in. But like most runners, I find making the time to run definitely helps me feel more able to cope with the challenges of a busy life. As runners we’ve all experienced feeling great after a workout, the release of ‘feel good hormones’ is often an instant stress reliever, boosting your mood and making you feel good about yourself. In the longer term, running regularly can improve your self esteem and confidence and helps reduce any anxiety problems or depression.
Being happier by enjoying your running makes you more motivated and positive in other areas of your life too. I’m also happy if we’re able to have fun exercising together as a family, it feels so positive when the whole family has enjoyed the benefits of being active. There are many aspects to running that promote good mental health. Feeling physically fit and having a healthy body makes you feel better about yourself. Exercising can also improve sleep quality which is strongly associated with good emotional health. Running gives you the chance to get exercising outdoors which can be more inspiring than being stuck in the gym, especially if you’re able to take in some natural sunlight and even better if you’re able to run amongst beautiful scenery. Getting out running gives you valuable time out from the stresses of life. Concentrating purely on your run allows you to clear and quieten down your mind so you’ll be able to focus more easily afterwards.
Setting yourself running goals is a fantastic way to keep you motivated and you’ll feel proud of yourself for your determination when you accomplish them. The goals don’t have to be massive, they could be to run a few more miles a week or to run a quicker pace on a training run. Achieving smaller goals on route to a bigger one will keep you feeling focused and positive about your progress. Taking part in events such as the The Windsor Women’s 10K are exciting goals, soaking up the atmosphere and achieving something alongside others, is an amazing experience and it gives you a real buzz. Whatever your goals, you’ll feel proud of yourself when you accomplish them and your confidence will grow. It’s always good to embrace the social side of running, studies have shown that running with others, taking part in events or parkruns and engaging in specific social networking sites for runners significantly benefits mental health. Being able to share experiences with other runners and encouraging each other provides a real feeling of camaraderie. It’s fantastic that our running community is so inclusive and is going from strength to strength. Getting involved allows you feel part of something which is great for boosting self esteem. Being a runner is not about how much, how fast or how far you run, you’re still a runner, it’s about enjoying your running and it being a positive and uplifting part of your life.