5 reasons why running lifts your mood
It’s 6am, you’re lying in bed, and your alarm goes off to signal it’s time for a morning run. Your first instinct may be to hit the snooze button, but you know, once you lace up your trainers, plug in your earphones and get started, you’ll feel great. Or maybe that euphoric feeling comes after your run? Either way, running will almost always lift your mood. Why is that?
We have explored 5 reasons why running makes us feel so happy, and perhaps, you may be inspired to find out for yourself?
1. Running promotes healthy eating
Most of us know that nutrition and exercise go hand in hand – without the other, you are less likely to reach your health goals. With this in mind, most regular runners will make sure to enhance their efforts with nourishing food, rather than nullify them with poor choices. Certain nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, low GI carbohydrates, prebiotic fibres and probiotics, have all been linked with improved mental health. Meeting your daily fruit and veg targets, as well as including a wide variety of whole grains, lean proteins, dairy, healthy fats, and the occasional glass of wine or square of dark chocolate (!), will ensure you meet your requirements for these nutrients and more (1).
2. Running improves mental clarity, reduces stress and anxiety, and supports sleep
The mental benefits of running have a neurochemical basis. Firstly, running increases your heart rate, which triggers a release of noradrenaline, improving cognitive function. Secondly, running releases endorphins, which reduce pain, support sleep, improve mood, and provide that ‘runner’s high’ – which can be felt for hours after you stop (2,3). Furthermore, studies have shown that exercise promotes changes in the brain that simultaneously promote sharp thinking, and quieten overactivity caused by stress and anxiety (4). A poll conducted by Anxiety and Depression Association of America found that 20% of surveyed adults preferred running as a strategy for combating stress (2).
3. Running boosts self-confidence and self-image
Not everyone can run. It requires motivation, discipline, stamina, and a ‘can-do’ attitude. If you’re able to complete a few runs a week, we bet you’re happy about it, and so you should be! Feeling proud of your efforts will boost your self-confidence, give you a sense of achievement, and empower you to stay on top of your overall health. If you notice changes such as weight loss, improved muscle tone and a brighter complexion, this may also improve your self-image (3).
4. Running offers some ‘you time’, or some time with friends
It doesn’t matter whether you choose to run alone, or with a buddy, all options should give you a mental ‘holiday’ – some much-needed time off from the stressors of everyday life. If you struggle to clear your mind, try focusing on your breathing, listening to something you enjoy, or sign up for a running group. We personally love listening to engaging content, such as an audiobook or podcast. You may even find that your running improves as a result.
5. Running provides an opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy the sunshine and fresh air
Vitamin D is the ‘buzz’ nutrient of today, with studies linking deficiency with a range of ailments, including osteoporosis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers – and depression (4). With most adults working in sedentary, indoor jobs – running outdoors provides an excellent opportunity to soak in some sunshine and vitamin D, which promotes mental wellbeing. Not to mention the light and fresh air, which can lift your mood. Researches at the University of Essex have demonstrated that exercising in the outdoors (aka ‘green exercise’) improves self-esteem and mood (4)