Running, or physical exercise, in general, has a huge impact on not only your physical health but your overall mental wellbeing. This is probably one of the top reasons why people run. Research has found that, in combination with the right kinds of therapy, running has a number of benefits.

As a Psychologist, I am very privileged to have both a theoretical and practical understanding of the mental benefits that running has, and trust me, running (or any form of movement) is always at the top of my list when speaking through coping mechanisms or emotional outlets with clients. Running may of course not be everyone’s cup of tea, but any form of movement, be it walking, stretching etc. has the same effect.

When you exercise or run, endorphins and serotonin are released in your body. These are known as your “happy hormones” and they are chemicals in your brain that improve your mood. There are a number of mental benefits that exercise and running actually:

  1. Assists in alleviates anxiety and depressive symptoms- Running and other forms of exercise can assist in reducing anxiety symptoms. It can also serve as a technique in managing symptoms around anxiety and depression.
  2. Helps with stress management - Going for a run may assist with stress relief by helping you get your mind off your troubles. The chemicals released during and after running can help in feeling calmer in highly stressful situations.
  3. Improved sleep - Running can also benefit your sleep. This includes regulated circadian rhythms, heightened daytime alertness, quicker onset of sleep, deeper sleep, and the reduction of symptoms in those with insomnia.
  4. Boosts your mood and confidence - Set running goals and stay committed to them. This has a huge impact on happiness levels and raising your confidence levels in the process. And you do not have to run for hours on end every day to feel the effects of running on your mood.

Running has taken me on a journey out of a dark place in my life and has helped me significantly in some emotional difficulties I have encountered throughout the years. Recently, I encountered the loss of a loved one, which was a very traumatic experience for me and running has helped me process the emotions around that experience. It is a space where am able to let go and for a moment, everything just seems right. It is sometimes difficult to explain, but running just makes sense, in every aspect of my life.

They usually say that “running is the most affordable form of therapy” which is true. If you are feeling anxious, overwhelmed, lonely, sad, worried, etc. put on your running shoes, go outside, and move . Remember, whilst taking care of your body, you are taking care of your mind: “Sound mind in a Sound body”

written by

Mbalenhle Gumbi

Educational Psychologist from Johannesburg

Age group: 29
Club: Adventist Athletics Club

My Disciplines
Fitness Half Marathon Ultra Marathon Marathon Strength Training

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