Exercise As Therapy: 5 Ways Running Helps De-Stress Your Life
Some days it's not about speed or miles. It's just therapy.
You try to lead a healthy lifestyle, but sometimes it's hard to get out of bed, lace up your shoes, and go to the gym. After a long day, exercise may be the last thing you want to do.
Running however, is one of the best ways out there to relieve stress and improve your mood. Here are some things running does to reduce stress and to find motivation to keep going when your day gets difficult.
Running boosts your endorphins.
It has been known since the 1980s that the so-called "runner's high," the feeling of euphoria many people experience after long-distance running and other intense exercise, is the result of increased levels of endorphins in the brain.
These "feel good" hormones are released at low levels throughout the day, but according to doctors at the Mayo Clinic, running causes them to be released at higher levels.
This means that after a long and stressful day, lacing up your shoes and hitting the pavement can help you feel better and serve as an outlet for releasing some of the tension and frustration you may be experiencing.
Running is a long-term mood stabilizer.
Running also serves as one of the long-term ways to relieve stress. People who exercise regularly tend to be less reactive to stress than people who lead sedentary lifestyles, and there's no exercise out there that is more natural and inexpensive than running.
According to the International Journal of Stress Management, exercisers experienced less anxiety and showed a reduced change in heart rate and blood pressure when they were placed in a stressful situation than non-exercisers did.
Running can not only serve as an outlet for stress; it can also make you better able to cope with the stress you have to face on a daily basis.
Running in your life should be a source of reducing stress not causing more of it.
Running mimics meditation.
While running trains the body, meditation trains the mind. Studies have shown that people who meditate display more balanced brain chemistry and are less depressed and more able to cope with stressful situations.
Running is a peaceful, repetitive activity, and according to Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, author of "Running With the Mind of Meditation," running provides stillness the mind needs in order to meditate.
Runners can focus on being mindful of each step they take and the form of the body, on experiencing joy and appreciation of the body's ability to move, and on being one with nature on an outdoor run, all of which can take your mind off stressors and provide you with a healthy outlet.
Running builds social bonds.
Running doesn't have to be a solo activity. Singapore have running clubs that periodically go on group runs.
These groups can help you make new friends and explore fresh routes. People who are active within their communities on average experience less stress and live longer than do loners. Another option is to compete in races open to the public. The running community is very supportive; your toughest competitor will always be yourself.
There are more than 44 running events advertised in Singapore alone in 2013. You never know who you will meet at a running event, and the sense of connection to a community outside your home or workplace can be priceless in reducing the impact of stress on your life and health.
Running improves health.
Just as stress predisposes the body to illness, being ill is stressful. Stress and illness are a vicious cycle that a running habit can help to break. Running regularly leads to improved energy, weight loss, improved control of blood sugars, fewer aches and pains, and improved cardiovascular health.
Just knowing that you are doing something to reduce your risk of the chronic illnesses that plague Western society can reduce stress in and of itself. Constant pain, doctor visits, and fatigue interfere with your ability to function on a day to day basis and produce stress of their own.
Reducing the risk of all these ailments is one of the many running benefits. Running can also serve as a starting point to develop a generally more healthful lifestyle. As you get better at running, you may find yourself making healthier dietary choices and getting more sleep in order to improve your performance. All of these changes improve your general health, and they all start with a pair of jogging shoes.
As you can see, in addition to being a fun, easy, and natural way to get fit, running was practically designed to relieve stress.
From boosting your body's production of natural feel-good, stress-fighting hormones to helping you make connections in your community and keep your physical health intact, running can improve your mental health and make your life richer and more pleasant.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and beat some stress!