Running is on the rise. We are seeing an increase of runners from the road to the trail and that number is going up every year. We’ve talked about so many physical and mental aspects running can benefit throughout our blogs but one thing we haven’t touched on is how it relates to mental health, more specifically anxiety. This topic is important because statistics show that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the U.S. affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 or older according to the ADAA. While these are considered highly treatable issues, less than half of those suffering from anxiety seek treatment. With the rise in running and the focus on mental health for 2018, it raises the question, how can running help to eliminate anxiety and improve overall mental health?
How does exercise relate to anxiety?
Studies have been done and found that those who are actively exercising are 25% less likely to develop anxiety or depression in the next 5 years. Much like taking medicine for a headache, those who even do a quick 10 minute walk or run can feel the benefits for hours after. Exercising regularly can help reduce fatigue, stress, and enhance your overall cognitive function and all of these factors can contribute to anxiety if they aren’t taken care of.
What does exercise do for the brain?
Studies have found that being active improves your cognitive function almost immediately. When being active or exercising your brain is releasing endorphins that make you feel good. It also aids in releasing hormones which helps set the perfect environment for brain cell growth. Drops in stress hormones have been found as more cell growth is evident.
What is the runner’s high?
The runner’s high is a euphoric feeling often paired with a feeling of invincibility and a reduced sense of pain. As for the explanation to why people experience this is under speculation, all possible reasons are a good testament to how running can help to lower anxiety and improve your overall mood. One of the interesting suggestions is that your body temperature has something to do with the feeling of calm, or alleviated stress. When anxiety is flaring up your body tends to be colder as you react to the adrenaline and by warming up your body (not a fever) but the type of warm up that comes for exercise you allow blood to flow more freely which brings about a sense of calm. The runner’s high is more of a short term feeling, but studying those who live an active lifestyle it’s been found and known that exercising regularly has long term effects as those who are active generally are in a better mood, and experience less anxiety and depression. Another theory is that the rhythmic motion of running creates a sense of calm which helps to relax you. And although you will see ultra distance and marathon runners reap these rewards, the positive note is that the suggested amount of activity needed to produce these effects is about 20-30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise.
Mental health is a very undermentioned topic in 2018. I think it’s very beneficial to know about the things that improve our physical health, but also have a profound impact on our mental health. Have you noticed exercise helping you with anxiety? Any tips you can provide on this subject?. Drop them below and let’s discuss.