Often in movies and TV shows, when the characters become stressed or frustrated, they are depicted going for a run. Sweat dripping dramatically while the soundtrack blares and their feet pound the track, they seem to run their troubles away. Depending on the tone of the story, the backdrop will either be sunny or moody and atmospheric. Rain or shine, however, running seems to bring relief. If you’ve never tested this for yourself, there couldn’t be a better time to take up running. Running can help you keep fit, lift your spirits, and bring relief from the daily stresses of life.
5 Ways Running Helps Bring Relief
Dedicated runners enjoy these five benefits and more.
The Power of Routine
Our bodies actually crave routines. That’s part of the reason why people who keep daily routines tend to be happier and more at peace than those who do not.
Though you may find it challenging at first to get into a new routine, once you have yourself on a daily/weekly running schedule, you’ll find that your body will not only ease quickly into it, but it will soon start to enjoy the rhythm. That’s because you’re actually giving your body something that it already wants.
Increased Sunlight Exposure
Though not everyone can run outside every day, outdoor runs are by far more enjoyable than runs completed on indoor tracks and treadmills. When running outside, you can feel the wind in your face; savor the sights, sounds, and smells of the great outdoors; and, best of all, you can enjoy all the benefits of increased exposure to natural light.
While there are certainly some risks to sunlight exposure (damage and skin cancer are two to consider), the overall benefits of daily exposure to the “sunshine vitamins” include:
- Lifting your mood
- Allowing your body to absorb Vitamin D
- Activating nitric oxide located in the skin
- Fostering better oxygen and blood flow to muscles and the brain
While you should always protect your skin against overexposure to the sun, the benefits of increased sun exposure due to outdoor running can go a long way toward helping you stay happy and healthy—particularly in the winter months.
More Oxygen to the Brain
When people go running, they often cite feeling wonderful, particularly right after the run is completed. This effect is nicknamed the “runner’s high.” Not only will their bodies feel relaxed and loose, but they also attest to feeling an increased sense of mental clarity.
Part of the reason exercise enhances cognition has to do with blood flow. Research shows that when we exercise, blood pressure and blood flow increase everywhere in the body, including the brain. More blood means more energy and oxygen, which makes our brain perform better. (Scientific American)
Though the immediate euphoria of the runner’s high does fade, the benefits remain. This could be why, all other factors being equal, students who exercise have a tendency to score higher on tests than their less athletic peers.
Release of Endorphins
Many studies have shown that people who exercise regularly enjoy more positive moods and lower rates of depression. In addition to the psychological benefits of exercise (routine, as we mentioned above, plays a big factor, as do satisfaction and pride in accomplishment), runners also enjoy a release of endorphins mid-run.
Endorphins…trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. For example, the feeling that follows a run or workout is often described as “euphoric.” (WebMD)
Endorphins also act as natural analgesics, meaning they diminish the runner’s perception of pain. This can help explain why runners often claim to catch a “second wind” mid-run and can feeling great post-run even if the run itself wasn’t enjoyable. Their bodies are literally helping them feel better.
Lower Stress Levels
To new or aspiring runners, this may sound a bit counterintuitive. Running is hard work, and it can push your body to the limits. Why, then, does it not stress you out? Why does it instead lead to lower stress levels overall?
It turns out running is a form of what’s called “productive stress.”
Productive stress stimulates physiological adaptations that make you fitter, stronger and faster.
- Gives energy rather than saps it
- Supports sleep rather than disturbs it
- Cultivates overall health rather than disrupts it
- Leaves you feeling happy rather than dissatisfied
If you’re looking for immediate and effective stress relief, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to take up running.
Some Tips on Getting Started
If you’re going to start running, you’ll want to make sure you’re positioned for success.
Get the Right Gear
Above all else, you’ll want to invest in a good pair of running shoes. While it may feel easier to dig an old pair of trainers out of the closet and get started immediately, you can actually do damage to your feet by wearing old or ill-fitting shoes. Though you’ll eventually be able to take advantage of online ordering if you want, it’s worth it to go into a running store and be fitted for your first pair by a professional.
When you’re just starting out with running, small goals are the way to go. Rather than trying to rack up the mileage right away, which can lead to injury, start with small, achievable goals and build up in small increments. Many beginners find a walk/run system of interval training a good place to start.
Lead Your Run
There’s an old saying: If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.
Whether you run alone or with a partner to hold you accountable, make sure you have a system in place to get started and slowly build your strength, stamina, and running abilities. You can either download a beginner’s running program from the internet or craft one yourself; whichever you choose, make sure you take leadership and have a plan in place to grow in your running.
Either way, all the relief-bringing benefits of running are available now. To learn more about getting started and staying the course, come check us out for further information and discussion.