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8 benefits of running

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Sense of Community

One thing that can be overlooked is the sense of community a person can gain when starting to run often. The positivity and comradery that’s formed can become life changing. There are thousands of running clubs all over the UK, from elite ultra-running groups to clubs specifically focused on improving mental health like Run talk Run.

Parkrun is a collection of 5-kilometre running events that take place every weekend in over 1000 locations worldwide with more than 250,000 people getting involved in these events.

A study from 2018 by Nottingham Trent University looked at why runners attended park runs and the effects that these runs had on their well-being. It was found that 92% of runners felt a ‘positive impact’ on their well-being and it enables these individuals to feel part of a ‘supportive community’. As well as this, 88% of people said their confidence for running increased.

Improved cognitive function

There’s reason to suggest that the simple act of running can influence someone’s cognitive ability and can lead to sharper thinking.

Research has found that exercise complements other aspects of a persons healthy lifestyle and can counteract issues like cognitive disorders and onset dementia.

Running can both directly and indirectly affect your thinking skills. Indirectly, running improves mood and sleep, therefore reduces anxiety. The higher the amount of stress and anxiety someone experiences, the more their cognitive function can be impaired.

Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise was found to be an ideal duration and intensity to optimise cognitive performance immediately afterwards (Research by the National Taiwan Sport University).

‘Runner’s high’

Recent research suggests that there’s some science behind the ‘runners high’. A study in 2015 found that running increases endocannabinoids in my brain leading to reduced anxiety and a feeling of calmness. 

A Brazilian study found that certain areas in the brain release endogenous opioids (basically, a natural opiate found in your body) while you run.

Our body loves dopamine. This is the ‘feel good’ chemical. Running is a healthy and positive method of releasing dopamine into the body. Running has the power to give you a renewed sense of reward and pleasure. Psychologists view runners high as a “deeply euphoric state”. Whether you feel this intense euphoria from running or merely a lower level of calmness. In conclusion, exercise can reinvigorate the pleasure centres in the brain.

Fights Depression

Research published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found patients to have a lower score on the DASS (Depression, Anxiety and Stress scale) after continued physical activity. From this, it’s easy to suggest that running can help someone cope with the symptoms of depression, especially low mood and motivation.

An Australian study has outlined that individuals suffering from depression and anxiety should be “encouraged” to meet the National Physical Activity Guidelines. Doctors, psychologists and therapists around the world actively promote outdoor exercise as one of the key foundations of a healthy mind.

A review of over 25 studies confirms the notion of how beneficial exercise is on a person’s state of mood and happiness. The main finding was that regular running prevents future depression from taking shape. We are hardwired to feel good when we work out.

Triggers Creativity

When you first start running, your mind is overwhelmed with this new activity. However, with practice and regularity, running can give you clarity and focus, meaning your creative ideas can flow.

Research from cognitive psychologist Professor Lorenzo Colzato suggests a connection between creativity and exercise. The more exercise you do, the more creative you can become. It was found that people who ran four times a week were more creative than those who didn’t run at all.

Further research found that the act of running triggers creative thinking. According to the researchers, the mechanism at work here is that your brain associates forward motion with the future (Found by a recent University of Aberdeen).

Mood and creativity are enhanced independently of each other by physical activity like running.

Slows the aging process

Exercise has been thought slow the aging process in our body cells. When a cell ages, tiny caps on the end of the DNA called telomeres naturally shorten. A study has suggested that beginning, or maintaining an exercise program in your middle ages is the key to stopping the shortening of the telomeres.

Research has found that exercise complements other aspects of a person’s healthy lifestyle and can counteract issues like cognitive disorders and onset dementia.

Fights addiction

Many people use running as a way to cope with addiction. Nowadays, addiction is viewed as a neurological disorder rather than a moral failing. Aerobic exercise can stabilize neurotransmitters in the brain and limits cravings. The lifestyle that running brings becomes an addiction in itself. Though in this case, the rewards are positive.

A study has suggested that an aerobic exercise program can be hugely beneficial to those trying to recover from alcoholism. After a 12-week exercise programme (that included running), individuals were found to drink a significantly lower amount after the 3-month period had finished. It was also found that the participants refrained from drinking for a longer period after taking part in the programme.

Increases productivity

There is no better way to start your day than with a morning run. The feeling of accomplishment afterwards can offer a much-needed morale boost when beginning a working day. A daily routine that includes a run will help you when faced with the stress from heavy workload. Running helps regulate your sleep pattern, giving order during chaotic times.

A study looked into the effects of ‘worksite health interventions’. It looked at the differences in productivity of its workers after exercising. Workers had to rate how productive they became after a workout. The research suggests that employees that run and workout perform better at their job and take fewer sick days off work. They produced a higher level of “work ability”.