Running is a surprising weapon against depression and anxiety, especially when traditional methods such as therapy or antidepressant drugs do not seem to yield any results.
All kinds of aerobic exercise, including walking, cycling, or swimming, can impact depression symptoms, but running seems to be the versatile option that is acceptable for most people.
Today we talked with a running coach Rory Thomas who explained how running may help to treat depression.
#1 Running Increases Serotonin Levels
Research shows that any type of exercise can help you increase your hormone serotonin levels. However, running has proven to be exceptionally effective in releasing and producing hormone serotonin.
“Serotonin is responsible for stabilizing your mood, regulating sleeping and digestion. After it’s released in your body, you will notice an elevation in happiness and overall well-being. Running is one of the best ways to achieve this effect.“ – explains Rory Thomas.
Low levels of serotonin are linked with depression symptoms, including feeling sad and upset. Regular exercising will help you reach the normal range, feel better, and treat mild depression symptoms.
#2 Spending Time Outdoors Fights Stress and Depression
Running, especially long-distance running, for most people is directly associated with spending time outdoors. No matter if it’s the local park in your neighborhood or a scenic hiking trail outside in the woods, spending time in nature has therapeutic value, as it reduces stress, anxiety, and even depression.
“Recently, healthcare providers have started to prescribe spending time in nature as a treatment to mitigate depression. There is no better way to utilize this than to combine nature and exercise” – said Rory Thomas.
How much time should you spend in nature to notice the effects of this? Focus on at least 20-30 minutes, 2-3 times a week.
#3 Jogging Stimulates The “runner’s High”
Have you ever heard of or experienced “the runner’s high”? It’s a short but intense state that happens after a run or other aerobic exercise when you feel euphoric.
It was believed that the “runner’s high” is caused by increased amounts of endorphins in your blood. Low levels of endorphins are linked with depression.
“Endorphins are known to decrease stress and relieve pain, but they are not the cause of “runner’s high.” Endorphins are created in your blood, but their molecules cannot reach your brain, because they are too big to cross the blood-brain barrier.” – summarizes Rory Thomas.
After vigorous research, scientists now believe that the runner’s high is caused by chemicals endocannabinoids, which are naturally created by your body and replicate the effects of marijuana. Its tiny molecules can easily reach the brain.
Both endorphins and endocannabinoids are created and released to your body as a response to physical stress, and running is the perfect way to encourage their production.
How to harness the power of running to ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression?
Running as a tool to have a lasting effect on your mental health is a long-term process that contains multiple obstacles.
From injuries and overtraining to loss of motivation and progress plateaus, you might encounter various challenges while building your training routine.
Running doesn’t have to be based on trial and error. You can use a personalized running program that fits your fitness levels and hits your wellness goals.