You likely already know the immense physical benefits of jogging. In addition to helping with losing weight, running boosts overall health by preventing diabetes, strengthening muscles, and improving heart health. The advantages of running doesn’t stop with physical health — exercise has a huge impact on mental wellbeing as well. In this article, we’ll break down the mental health benefits of cardio and how you can implement running into your mental fitness routine.
Mental Health Benefits
Running both prevents mental issues and improves state of mind. In fact, the mental benefits of exercise are backed up by years of research and study. According to the National Library of Medicine, aerobic exercise improves mood by increasing blood circulation to the brain and producing endorphins. And although exercise alone can’t cure mental illness, it’s often a critical coping skill and can ease many symptoms. Let’s dive deeper into the mental benefits of exercise.
1. Fights Mental Illness
When you’re in the midst of mental illness, getting up and going for a run is the last thing you want to do. However, physical exercise makes a big difference in alleviating mental illness. Going on a run takes the mind off spiraling thoughts and redirects it to exercise. Common depression symptoms like lack of energy are hard to fight, but getting up and moving helps clear up brain fog and refocus. Getting out in the fresh air breaks the cycle of isolation those with depression often experience.
Mental health exercises like jogging have even been found to improve symptoms in people with bipolar disorder. Burning off energy is critical to managing bipolar episodes, and running is a repetitive, fast-paced task anyone can do.
2. Relieves Anxiety
The next time you’re stressed beyond your wit’s end, try going for a brisk walk or run. Much in the same way running helps alleviate depression symptoms by redirecting focus, it also soothes anxiety.
Cardio for mental health also lends itself to anxiety exercises such as mindfulness. The idea behind mindfulness is being more aware in your body to decrease stress. Paying attention to the sounds and sights around you and the way your body moves are ways to practice mindfulness while running.
3. Boosts Cognitive Abilities
Besides improving mood, running also helps mental health in other ways. Working out boosts the chemicals in the brain that support the hippocampus, the part of the brain dedicated to learning and memory. As a result, running between the ages of 25 and 45 helps slow cognitive decline as you age.
Running preserves cognitive function in older adults, but it could also make you smarter. The act of physical exercise creates a protein in the brain that promotes brain cell growth. This leads to a mental boost after your workout, improving brain performance.
Tips on Running for Stress Relief
Many people struggle to commit to a running routine. Here are some tips to follow to get yourself on the right track:
1. Start Small
Begin by running for 30 minutes a few times a week. Set small, manageable goals. You can always work towards running for longer distances more often, but it’s better to take small steps at first to avoid burnout if you’re new to running.
2. Find a Running Buddy
Having someone exercise with you is a great way to hold yourself accountable. It also makes you feel a little safer when running in an unfamiliar place. If you’re concerned about running by yourself for safety reasons, invite a friend along to join you on your next jog.
3. Wear Comfortable Shoes
Avoid wearing flats, sneakers, or other non cushioned shoes on your run. Wearing the wrong shoes could result in blisters and distract you from your exercise. Instead, opt for a pair of cushioned shoes with arch support. Athletic sneakers or running shoes usually have these features.
4. Rest Often
Running feels good for your body and mind, but it’s important not to overdo it. By not letting your body heal, you risk overworking your body. Pay attention to your body and any signs of fatigue, extreme soreness, or exhaustion. Take time to rest and drink plenty of water.
By exercising often, you’ll be on the right track for adopting healthier habits for your mind and body. Including running in your workout routine improves mental health and can even prevent future issues. Now that you’re familiar with the mental benefits of exercise, we hope you give running for stress relief a try.
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