6 Mental Health Benefits of Running

Like life, running has many ups and downs. Sometimes there will be pain, and sometimes you will feel good. Sometimes you will move slowly and sometimes faster than you could imagine, but the only thing you have to do, irrespective of the circumstance, is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. That’s the only way you are going to reach your finish line.

Do you feel so utterly stressed out that you find it hard to stay sane? Does your mental health plummet when you see you’re lacking a movement routine?

I remember the second I crossed the 26.2-mile marker running the TCS NYC Marathon and how amazing it made me feel. I could do it! Even though I couldn’t stand back up after finishing with jello legs.

I felt alive and forgot about anything wrong weighing me down because my two feet carried me throughout every mile of that race.

Why I Started Running

After starting my first job at Conde Nast in Manhattan after graduating college, I was constantly living in a state of stress. I was stressed about adapting to a new life outside of academia and didn’t know what I wanted to live, yet feeling disappointed day after day.

I felt like I had lost control. I felt lost. I felt like I was failing.

I needed an outlet outside of my crazy working hours to alleviate stress.

Running Saved Me

I remember heading out at 5 am to run around Central Park, being with my thoughts and mind, and starting the day as healthy as possible. I felt like I could tackle the world before 6 am.

It’s not surprising that many of us decide to tackle a marathon or try to start running because of a few of the fantastic benefits that running can bring.

Running is not a substitute for medications to alleviate anxiety, but it can help you, with time, eliminate the need for anxiety pills. I was prescribed Klonopin and have been able to cope with daily stresses and anxiety because of my consistent running routine. The running goal that I knew wouldn’t be possible was being so reliant on medication to get me through the day.

1) Running helps you to relax your mind

Running outdoors is a great way to take a break, drop everything you’re doing, and just be with your thoughts.

Running allows you to spend pent-up energy on your feet, reducing any anxious feelings you might have to tackle the rest of your day afterward with a more grounded body and mind. If you get out of the door, you’ll feel better for it!

2) Running improves your mindset

Dopamine and serotonin lower anxiety, which are hormones released to get the runners high while you run! Walking can boost your mood. Moving your body helps alleviate anxiety and depression. I can speak first hand.

3) Running helps you sleep better

You are reducing stress and anxiety from lack of sleep. Running also makes you too tired to stress out! Consistently running will help you develop a consistent sleep cycle, with adequate sleep to allow your body and brain to rest and restore themselves from the following days. A healthy mind comes from healthy, consistent daily habits that your physical body must push you to do.

4) Running serves as a refreshing reminder that you are never alone

Since so many other runners run for the same reasons as you do, including mental health. Connecting with others in running clubs both in-person and virtually make us feel included, a part of a family, and gives us a sense of belonging. No one likes to feel left alone. A community such as Strava helps you connect with runners worldwide and hold yourself accountable by participating in challenges or within a group of runners working towards the same goal as you. You have a support network at the end of the day, which is AWESOME. Knowing you’re not alone.

5) Running enhances cognitive skills and problem-solving

Running provides physical benefits because it’s efficient and intense. Working your heart provides more oxygen and nutrients to other systems while running. As the heart gets stronger, over time, with consistency, you notice decreased blood pressure and other beneficial things for your body’s physical health, including more oxygen to your brain, which can improve the mental benefits of running. With the increased cognitive benefits of running, your ability to solve problems, think creatively, and clear your mind of clutter, aka stay sharp!

6) Running boosts self-confidence mentally by bringing a sense of belonging

This mentality can spread to other areas in life as well. Although physical benefits bring self-confidence from running, including toning, physique, strength, and fitness benefits, the mental boosters come along with that. Feeling confident that you’re never alone in the sport welcomes a sense of belongingness and that you’re not the only one experiencing everything you do in the mental aspect of running. Things like running in a group help you to the experience of working with others to collaborate and achieve a similar goal together.

Running has physically and mentally changed me for the better. My purpose, value, and self-worth all become clear to me every time I run. A sub-3 hour marathon goal keeps me focused, consistently working on healthy habits between my fitness, recovery, and nutrition regime. These habits help keep me on track as I work towards my aggressive marathon goal and help me find one positive in every day to celebrate. Whether it’s running for 10 minutes or listening to my body get extra rest because it needs it, every win is a win. Big or small. And each one holds me accountable for achieving my long-term running goal: being able to run far and fast injury-free for life.

If you need help to keep you going, join my FREE Running For Mental Health WhatsApp community of runners. 

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