Running is Good for your Brain

I don’t know about you, but the cancellation of all these events due to COVID-19 certainly is making me depressed.  I hope the measures our government is taking will help get the situation under control. In the meantime, do you know what is the best way to fight this depression?  Get outside and take a walk or a run. Seriously. I’m not making this up. Multiple studies have concluded that running:

  1. Decreases symptoms of depression
  2. Improves learning abilities
  3. Sharpens memory
  4. Slows cognitive decline
  5. Alleviates anxiety
  6. Improves sleep
  7. Increases creativity

I ran 16 miles this weekend. It was more than my training plan called for, but just what I needed for my mental health.  Running certainly helps keep me sane and lifts my spirits. Being outside in nature makes it even better, so of the 16 miles I ran this weekend, I did 13 of them at beautiful Lake Sonoma. If you’ve never been to Lake Sonoma in Geyserville, CA, I highly recommend it. It’s a beautiful place to hike or even just to have a seat and enjoy the view.

According to WebMD, improved self-esteem is a key psychological benefit of regular physical activity. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. For example, the feeling that follows a run or workout is often described as “euphoric.” That feeling, known as a “runner’s high,” can be accompanied by a positive and energizing outlook on life.

Also, endorphins act as analgesics, which means they diminish the perception of pain. They also act as sedatives. They are manufactured in your brain, spinal cord, and many other parts of your body and are released in response to brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. The neuron receptors endorphins bind to are the same ones that bind some pain medicines. However, unlike with morphine, the activation of these receptors by the body’s endorphins does not lead to addiction or dependence. The runner’s high is real. I don’t personally experience it every time I run, but I do feel it often.  And in addtition, exercise also has these added physical health benefits:

  • It strengthens your heart.
  • It increases energy levels.
  • It lowers blood pressure.
  • It improves muscle tone and strength.
  • It strengthens and builds bones.
  • It helps reduce body fat.
  • It helps you stay fit and healthy.

So, wash your hands, keep social distance, and go for a run or walk!  And do you know what’s even better than going for a run or walk along? Joining our virtual run/walk group!

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