You probably know that running and similar exercises result in physical well-being, help in weight management, and encourage an active lifestyle, but did you know running also provides mental and cognitive benefits?
Studies show that running causes the body to release endorphins that can result in a general sense of happiness. It has been used for years to treat addictions and clinical depression of all types. Less fatigue, less tension, and less depression are just a few changes a person experiences from a regular running program.
Apart from running being a great way to naturally lift your energy and release all the negative feelings, it has several other psychological benefits. Here are a few of them:
On a basic level, running can develop a positive self-image. Regardless of your weight, size, age, or gender, this exercise activity can quickly elevate your perception of your self-worth/attractiveness.
Even if you don’t develop a lot of muscle or lose a lot of weight while following a regular running program, you are likely to tone your body and increase stamina. Seeing such results can make you feel better about your appearance and bolster your self-confidence.
Reduce cognitive decline
Though unpleasant, the reality is that our brains get hazy as we grow older. The brain shrinks due of aging and diseases like Alzheimer’s kill brain cells and causes a loss of important brain functions.
While running and following up a proper diet can’t cure existing diseases, they can help prevent the cognitive decline by shoring up the brain, especially in individuals between 25 and 45 years of page. Running helps in boosting the chemicals in the brain that dampen hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory) degeneration.
Running increases your ability to learn new things by boosting the processing power of your memory. The generation of sweat increases hippocampus cell production that is responsible for learning and memory. For this particular reason, brain development at an early age has been associated with the level of physical fitness.
But exercise-based brainpower is not just for early age brain development; exercise can boost memory function among grown-ups, as well. Running sprints has been found to improve vocabulary preservation among healthy individuals, according to the results of a study.
Developing a routine
Everyone has a unique ability to run. The outcome, of course, is to learn the quirks of our bodies and play by its rules. Luckily, there are some principles you can follow to develop an active running routine to stay motivated, and run strong session after session:
Running isn’t about how many miles you can go; it’s about finding the right balance, and types of workouts that get you the mental benefits without exhaustion or injury. Experiment with different distance level on alternative days and develop weekly distance goals.
Then, see if you reach your goals weekly. When you start finding it easy, increase the distance or add an extra day or two for your sessions.
Stay small during an injury
If you’re carrying one of those common running injuries, give yourself a reality check; in coming back from all the time spent in cross-training, retain the perspective and skip the miles greed.
Also, you can wear recovery clothing such as compression shorts to feel productive even if you’re not able to run much. The product info on Tommiecopper.com explains that these shorts actually stabilize muscles and help in enhancing muscle and joint mobility. So you’ll be getting the benefit of faster recovery while you run those miles.
Aim for consistency
Whether you are working towards your weekly goal or recovering from a running injury, consistency is the most important factor in training. You won’t improve by running once a week, or running hard for a week and taking the next week off. Developing a regular routine comes from consistency, which also doesn’t mean you have to train all-year-round.
Structured training, with months of balanced miles, helps you avoid injuries and develop mental fitness towards this activity. What you can do is maintain a minimum running target, even if its 30 minutes 2 days a week, and preferably run in the morning as the mind is fresh at the start of the day. Plan your ‘lazy’ months for the time when you know it’ll be difficult to run – exam time, winter weather, and lifestyle changes.
Piling on the miles with intensity won’t get you anywhere faster, but it might get you out of action. So whether you’re running to reduce stress or lose weight, increase quality and quantity gradually.
This translates into increasing your weekly distance target by 10 percent a week. Apply this increase to more than one run. So if you run 10 miles a week, you could add 2 miles to a long run in the next session, while keeping your intensity the same.
Avoid increasing intensity and distance together; individuals new at running should focus on going farther rather than faster.