While it’s obvious that hitting the track or the treadmill has a great impact on physical fitness and health, there are also at least 5 psychological benefits of running. Not only do runners report feeling better, being happier and more creative, and having higher self esteem and less stress, but there’s plenty of scientific research to back it all up. Read on to learn five psychological benefits of running that come along with lacing up your sneakers and heading out.
- Running gives you a high. If you think the “runner’s high” is a myth, think again. Scientists have long believed endorphins were released during exercise, and for the first time, researchers at the Technical University of Munich and the University of Bonn have proved it. This imaging study, published in “Cerebral Cortex,” looked at the brains of athletes as they jogged for two hours, and the increased release of endorphins in certain areas of the brain could actually be seen. Endorphins, which are biochemicals sometimes described as the body’s natural opiates, not only create feelings of happiness and exhilaration, but they also relieve pain. This study not only confirms the existence of the “runner’s high,” but these findings may have implications for treating chronic pain.
- Run away from stress – literally. A study published in “Health Psychology” proved that exercise actually works as a buffer against the physical effects of stress. Researchers evaluated seventh and eighth grade girls and found that as their exercise levels increased, the negative impacts of stressful life events on their health decreased. This suggests that exercise may be a great way to counteract life stress, and many runners will agree. Not only can a runner escape from a problem physically, but by concentrating solely on movement and breathing, they also escape stressors mentally. Many runners actually rely on this time to plan the day ahead – or to leave a hectic day behind, taking advantage of this proven one of the psychological benefits of running.
- You can improve your self-esteem by running. To run, you must literally propel yourself forward, and the psychological benefits are undeniable. It’s an empowering feeling – and with every step, runners feel a sense of accomplishment. Running requires the constant establishment and achievement of goals – even if that goal is simply to run on any given day. With each additional milestone that is reached, confidence is developed and over time, self-esteem is built. Of course, running also develops muscles and burns fat, and runners are usually as proud of what their bodies can accomplish as they are of how they look.
- Stave off depression with regular runs. “The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology” published a study proving that regular exercise significantly reduces depression, and doctors have long recommended that patients exercise to reduce or eliminate feelings of depression. In fact, running has so many psychological benefits that some psychologists and therapists create running clubs and run with their patients on a regular basis.
- Running gets the creative juices flowing. Many runners report that going for a run is useful for problem solving and to overcome mental blocks. While it was originally believed that running fostered creativity because of the mood boost it provides, research has proven that otherwise. According to the “British Journal of Sports Medicine,”scientists used psychological measures for mood and creative thinking to evaluate participants who engaged in exercise or who watched a video. While both were improved among the exercisers, researchers found that physical activity actually boosts creativity independently of the effects it has on mood. Next time you’re stumped or you’re looking for inspiration, tap into this one of the psychological benefits of running. At the very least, you’re bound to feel better–and who knows what you may discover?