When most people think about running for exercise, they think about doing it to lose weight or build muscle or for its cardiovascular benefits. Yet running has mental benefits that in some ways have more impact than the simple physical benefits of exercise. We often hear about the “runner’s high”, but there is more to it than that. Most people who run will tell you about the times when they started out a run feeling terrible or stressed but finished the run with a different and better outlook on life.


The human mind is extremely powerful. Our mental state can actually have an enormous impact on our physical health. This mental impact can be as significant as the direct physical benefits of exercise. Here are a few of the ways running benefits us mentally:


1- Running decreases stress


We often think of stress as some outside force that affects us, yet the fact is that most of the impact of stress is mental. It is caused not by the outside forces we face, but more by the mental reactions we have to the events in our lives.


Running, more so than many other exercises, is a form of meditation. When you run the effort forces you to concentrate on your body’s reactions to the exercise while at the same time allowing you to pay attention to the scenery and relax. Most people come back from a run feeling less stressed and often with answers to problems they had been stressing over.


2- Running increases self esteem


If you maintain a regular running habit, feeling better about yourself comes with the territory. Part of this increase in self esteem comes from feeling healthier – losing fat, building muscle, gaining more endurance – but there is more to it than that. Running also actually increases your body’s production of hormones that help you feel better about yourself and help you deal with stress. In addition, regular running has been shown to improve your willpower about controlling other activities such as eating bad foods or drinking too much alcohol that negatively impact your health. This self control also improves how you feel about yourself


3 – Running decreases depression

Runners, as a rule, are better able to deal with depression than people who don’t exercise. Part of this effect comes from the decreased stress and increased self esteem already mentioned, but part of it actually chemical. In many people depression is not caused by outside forces but by chemical imbalances in their bodies. The endorphins that your body produces while running can have the same effect that powerful anti-depressant drugs so often prescribed to people today.


4 – Running increases your feeling of freedom


Once again, this is interlocked with the other mental benefits of running. Most people experience times in their lives when they feel trapped – trapped in their jobs, overwhelmed by family problems or financial problems or job problems that just won’t seem to go away.


Running, more so than most other exercises, gives people a sense of freedom and release. Rather than being trapped by their lives, or even by being stuck exercising in a gym, running opens up a feeling of being released from those pressures for at least a little while. Even though you may only be out running for 30 minutes to an hour, running allows you to escape from the pressures of life, quiet your mind and enjoy being released from pressure for a while.


All of these mental benefits combine to create that feeling many people refer to as a “runner’s high”. The mental health benefits of running are often more significant and contribute more to actually extending your life than the simple physical benefits of exercise.

Added by: Craig Payne