Run­ning is your per­fect pre­scrip­tion for im­proved men­tal health

Sherbrooke Record - - LOCAL SPORTS - A Run­ner’s Mind Chris­tine Blanchette

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

Twit­ter: @christineruns In­sta­gram: run­with­it_christineblanchette Youtube - Run­withit

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