Running as Stress Relief
The world is flat, smoking is good for you, and running is bad for your knees- all 'truths' that have thankfully been discredited over the course of history. Thank you Science and Enlightenment.
Evidence suggests we would be a happier, more productive nation if we all exercised regularly. But if recent elections are anything to go by, people aren't interested in facts anymore.
The mental barriers which prevent people lacing up the trainers are lengthy, but even in this 'post-truth age' the science is pretty indisputable.
1. Running relieves stress and anxiety.
Psychologically, the best strategy for lowering stress levels is to focus on the present and, as anyone who runs on trails or regularly does fartlek or interval sessions will testify, you quickly forget your email inbox as you surge to the next lamppost, or jump over protruding tree roots.
There’s a physical component to this too. Exercise increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain's response to, and the bodies ability to deal with mental tension.
In a sense running biologically toughens up your brain. After all when you’re running, your body experiences many of the physical reactions produced in a fight or flight situation, such as heavy perspiration, and increased heart rate. You’re less likely to panic if you are comfortable with these sensation
2. Running helps you learn.
Running has been shown to actually improve brain function - helping to create new brain cells and improving memory and learning. Tough workouts are again particularly beneficial, boosting production of a brain-derived protein (known as BDNF), believed to help with decision making, higher thinking, and learning.
3. Running boosts your mood.
The evidence here is pretty strong. The short term benefits are obvious; it’s highly unlikely you will ever head out on a run and feel worse afterwards. In the longer term the sense of accomplishment gained from physical improvement is harder to quantify but the facial expressions you see at the finish line at any Marathon is evidence enough.
There is an increasing body of evidence to demonstrate that running outdoors has the biggest boost on self esteem. In fact running and exercise is now prescribed as a treatment for people with depressive disorders. A 2007 study of adults recorded significantly lower depressive scores at both 4 and 12 months for those assigned exercise therapy as opposed to a placebo or inactivity.
4. Running saves you time.
Running makes you more productive. A recent study saw noticeable improvements in perceived productivity as a result of regular exercise regime. It also helps you think more creatively as studies have shown subjects recorded higher scores on creativity tests post exercise.
As well as being more efficient runners are also less likely to miss work due to illness, thereby increasing the amount of available time you have to get stuff done (and reducing associated costs for companies by 22.2%.)
So, unless you’re physically injured there isn’t justification to skip your next run. Essentially it’s like purposefully avoiding paracetamol when your head hurts. Just think of the payoff you’ll get from just being out there. It's the best Christmas gift you can give yourself!