Go for a Run and Help Your Brain
1 in 6 US adults suffers from mental illness. Minor problems like stress and anxiety plague more people than ever before. Suicide rates are climbing, billions of dollars are being spent, and millions of lives are affected because of poor mental health.
Many factors are responsible for your mental wellness, but lack of physical activity plays a huge role. Research confirms that physical activity can have a positive impact on your mental health. The easiest way to reap the rewards of exercise is to add running to your daily routine.
Let’s see how running will boost your brain function and mental well-being.
9 Ways Running Helps Your Mental Health
1) Manage Daily Stress and Anxiety
Everyday problems and worries might sound small, but the stress keeps building and it can lead to significant problems. Almost everybody complains of stress. We cannot eradicate the troubles and challenges from life, but we can prepare our minds to cope with them.
Researchers have found that regular exercise helps build resilience to acute stress.
People who participated in just one session of physical exercise in a week responded better to a stressful situation.
Another study established a link between physical activity and a drop in anxiety disorders.
2) Cope With Depression and Sadness
Depression is an awful mental disorder. It shatters hope and leaves no energy or desire to strive for better.
If you are feeling down, try running.
Have you ever heard of a ‘runner’s high?’ It’s the euphoric feeling long-distance runners get every once in a while.
But you don’t need to run a marathon to feel good. Small sessions of running are proven to be rewarding and fulfilling. In fact, physical exercise was found to be as good as antidepressants in this study of people suffering from major depression.
3) Excel in Life
Running benefits are not limited to mood enhancement or morale boost. Running can actually help you excel in whatever you do. For example, running can help students learn and memorize better. It increases cortisol levels, and higher cortisol is associated with better learning.
Three groups of students were monitored in a study. The group that ran performed better than the ones who played a video game or did nothing. This is endorsed by another study that confirms aerobic exercise improves the cognitive function of the brain.
4) Get More Focus
Do you think poor concentration, forgetfulness, or procrastination is getting in the way of your success? Running can improve your focus and attention.
A 2014 study confirms that physical exercise improves executive functions and cognitive control. It does that by activating the prefrontal and occipital cortices in the brain. Both of these are associated with executive functions like attention control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility.
5) Achieve Your Goals
We feel stressed and frustrated when we are not able to achieve our goals. Our to-do list keeps getting longer and professional goals to seem farther and farther from reality.
Getting up early and starting your day with running can help you achieve a lot more in your life. Your brain is most active and creative immediately after you woke up. You can do a lot more in the early morning hours compared to late night hours when you are physically and mentally exhausted.
You will make smarter choices in other areas of life as well.
6) Get Smarter
Running can actually make you more intelligent.
Neuroscientists at Cambridge University have shown that running stimulates the growth of fresh grey matter, a major component of our central nervous system. It is responsible for important functions like memory, speech, decision making, self-control, seeing, and hearing.
Similar research concludes that high-intensity exercises (like sprinting) improve performance in non-sport activities as well.
7) Slow Down Mental Decline
Running can add years to your life—but more importantly, the long list of benefits will improve the quality of life.
Age-related problems like Dementia or Alzheimers affect many people who are otherwise healthy. Running has also shown signs of slowing down age-related mental decline. A study found that people who regularly run are less likely to develop dementia even in their 80s.
Similarly, professors at the University of Otago published a review that concluded aerobic exercise boosts brainpower, especially in older generations.
8) Surround Yourself With Positive People
Mental states like depression or excitement are contagious. In fact, depression is known as the common cold of mental illnesses. In other words, you can start thinking positively if you surround yourself with positive people (and vice versa).
Running can be a great activity to do with your friend. Even if you can’t get a friend to join you in running, you can join a running club and make new friends.
9) Sleep Better
Lack of sleep can mess up your mind. A tired mind is a worried mind, and it’s difficult to put a worried mind to rest.
If you are suffering from insomnia, a running session in the morning will make it easy to fall asleep. Not only that, but it will also lengthen and improve the quality of sleep.
Of course, running isn’t for everyone, but if you think you can squeeze in a short run each day, then you may find some real comfort in the benefits you can get from it.
Aside from that, running improves overall health and reduces the risk of major problems like obesity, heart disease, or diabetes. All this newfound health will make a positive impact on your mood and allow you to think more clearly, so go for a run today!
- 9 Scientific Reasons: Mental Health Benefits of Running - April 16, 2018
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