Running is your perfect prescription for improved mental health
Colder temperatures combined with dark afternoon skies and driving rain can be challenging obstacles to overcome for those trying to improve their health. For some it can be downright depressing, especially for those in a fragile state due to chronic fatigue syndrome, injuries both real and imagined, or lack of support from family. Exercising during autumn can also be challenging for those suffering from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), anxiety and depression.
Yet by building your body to run for five to 10 kilometers, three to four times a week, you can boost your mental health, which is equally important to being physically fit. It’s true, you can destress by lifting weights, doing Pilates or playing team sports, though concentration and focus are required elements of those endeavours. Running allows you to lose yourself in thought through the rhythm of your cadence. Your fitness can improve while your mind is a million miles away.
Dr. Niki Fitzgerald, psychologist with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health says, "While exercise is fantastic for the body, it’s equally amazing for the mind. Research tells us that exercise can be as beneficial as medication and talk therapy for dealing with mild to moderate depression.” Dr. Fitzgerald was quoted from her recent article, ‘Move it or Lose it.’ She continued, “Regular exercise also has a positive impact on diet and sleep, which is often disrupted and fitful when we’re under stress. The more stressed we are, the more likely we are to make mistakes or be prone to poor decision making."
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, mental illness is increasingly recognized as a serious and growing problem. It is estimated that one in five Canadians will develop a mental illness in any given year. Many more individuals such as family, friends and colleagues are also affected.
Running has many benefits such as losing weight, which is a confidence booster and can also help you feel better mentally afterwards in the form of improved self esteem.
Here are my running tips that can help boost your mental health:
1. Making time to run can pay dividends. It is a great stress releaser and you will feel more relaxed while you burn calories every step of the way.
2. Problem solve - going for a run while trying to resolve an issue can help you focus. After just a few months of acclimating your body to run, you won’t need to think about the act of running, you just do it. Sorry Nike, but there’s no better way to put it. While you find your running rhythm, you can think about whatever you want.
3. Structure in your life - will help you reach your goal and lessen the feeling of anxiety.
Canadian Mental Health says, “It has been proven that being in green spaces (like forests, gardens and parks) can significantly reduce cortisol (stress hormone), and raise endorphin levels and dopamine production (both of which may promote “happiness”). Getting better air isn’t the only advantage to being outdoors. Natural light (Vitamin D) will help regulate your sleep cycle. Green spaces also promote doing physical activity, which can give your brain a boost, and can also improve your self-esteem, reduce stress and generally improve your quality of life. In other words, getting outside and being in nature is a winning combination for your psychological and physical well-being.”
Following a regular exercise program, getting enough sleep, and eating a wellbalanced diet is a perfect recipe for feeling and looking your best. And it could save your life. www.runwithit.ca
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