Running for Mental Health

Running for Mental Health

Why cardio exercises such as running does wonders for your mental health.

Exercise that gets your heart pumping, also known as aerobic or cardio exercise, have long been recognised for their significant health benefits on the brain and body. While many people may be aware that exercise such as running can help you feel healthier and happier, how does this phenomenon occur inside our body to support mental health? In this article, we share a number of evidence-based ways cardio exercise such as running supports mental health.

It supports stress management

Research supports that cardio activity produced significant reductions in stress and greater resilience to mental tension (Blumenthal, et. al., 2016). Exercise also increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that helps moderate the brain’s response to stress.

It releases happy chemicals in the brain

When a person exercises, a neurotransmitter is released into the brain called ‘endorphins.’ Endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body, which can contribute to a happier, more positive and energised outlook on life. Studies have also found there is a direct correlation between higher levels of endorphins in the brain and higher self-esteem (Gilani and Feizabad, 2019).

It prevents cognitive decline

Cardio exercise can help minimise the slow cognitive decline that happens to the brain as we age. Exercise boosts the chemicals in the brain that support and prevents degeneration of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory and learning, promoting better productivity and performance (Li, et. al., 2019).

It helps us sleep better

A myriad of studies supports the notion that exercise improves sleep quality in children and adults (Kelley and Kelley, 2017). For some, a moderate run can be a suitable replacement for sleeping medication, even for those suffering from insomnia. Exercising raises the body’s core temperature, and when the body temperature returns to normal later in the day, it helps to signal to your body that you are starting to relax.

Exercise is a powerful and natural way to promote better physical and mental health, so next time you are struggling to go to the gym, a walk or a run, remember all the benefits you will continue to enjoy over time.

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Blumenthal, J., Sherwood, A., Smith, P., Watkins, L., Mabe, S., Kraus, W., Ingle, K., Miller, P. and Hinderliter, A., 2016. Enhancing cardiac rehabilitation with stress management training: a randomized, clinical efficacy trial. Circulation133(14), pp.1341-1350.

Li, X., Inoue, T., Hayashi, M. and Maejima, H., 2019. Exercise enhances the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in the hippocampus accompanied by epigenetic alterations in senescence-accelerated mice prone 8. Neuroscience letters706, pp.176-181.

Gilani, S.R.M. and Feizabad, A.K., 2019. The effects of aerobic exercise training on mental health and self-esteem of type 2 diabetes mellitus patients. Health psychology research7(1).

Kelley, G.A. and Kelley, K.S., 2017. Exercise and sleep: a systematic review of previous meta‐analyses. Journal of Evidence‐Based Medicine10(1), pp.26-36.