Everyone knows that running is one of the best ways to stay fit. It’s beautifully simple and remarkably effective at keeping our bodies healthy. Of course, most runners know that there are psychological and emotional benefits to running as well. In this blog post we take a look at the science behind the mental benefits of running:
Cardiovascular exercise pumps oxygen-rich blood to your brain. When done often, the effects of this increased blood flow can cause long-term improvements in mental processes. While all exercise is good, studies have found that cardiovascular exercise offers the greatest benefit, so keep feeding your brain by staying on your feet!
More Good Feelings
Running improves your mood by causing an increase in the body’s natural production of endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s way of reducing pain and stress. These little guys flood the brain when the body is subjected to intense exercise, causing what is commonly known as “runner’s high.”
This one is not so scientific, but important nevertheless. When you run, you become more fit, accomplish new goals, and improve your self-esteem and confidence in general. For many people, running serves as the basis for a more successful personal life by showing them that they are capable of more than they realize.
Neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine are chemicals that affect mental health. Some forms of depression and anxiety, for example, are caused in part by a deficiency of these chemicals. Running helps the body create more of these chemicals, thereby helping to improve mood and outlook.
Some studies have shown that consistent exercise can actually cause structural changes to the hippocampus. These changes can improve learning and memory retention capabilities, and may even reduce depression, neurodegeneration and dementia in elderly populations. In fact, other studies have shown that running and other aerobic exercise not only slows the degeneration of cells, but can also cause the growth of new nerve cells and blood vessels.
So next time you head out the door or down the trail for a run, pat yourself on the back. You’re not just getting stronger and healthier, you’re improving your mind as well!