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5 Reasons Running Improves Your Mood

5 Reasons Running Improves Your Mood

Humans have been running - out of sport and necessity - since ancient times. The 26.2 mile marathon distance was one of the original modern Olympic events in 1896. There's no doubt - running is here to stay as both a sport and a hobby.

If you’re a runner, you already know that you get an undeniable mood-boost from going out for a run. Some folks may not understand your interest (or obsession) with running. But the truth is that there are clear mental and emotional benefits to running.

Each runner has her or his own reasons for loving the sport. From expert to novice, you can enjoy these 5 ways running improves your mood.

1 - Running Gets You Outside

Sometimes all you need to cheer up is to change up your surroundings. Running’s got you covered. Going for a run gets you outside, to enjoy the fresh air.

Does working in the office all day take it's toll on your mood? Wash away the the weight of the day with a run. You'll come back refreshed is all the motivation you need.

"Getting away from it all" is not a new idea for mood improvement. Saint Thomas Aquinas already believed it in the 13th century. An influential philosopher, he taught that “all men need leisure.” It’s still true, almost 800 years later.

2 - Running Reduces Mental Stress

Many studies have shown that running can reduce mental stress and anxiety. Exercise reduces levels of adrenaline and cortisol, two hormones related to stress.  

You don't have to run a marathon to kill stress. Just an easy run will make a difference.

The mental health community has taken note of the positive effects of moderate exercise. Depression is currently the most common mental illness. Finding easy and effective treatments for it is critical. For some people, light to moderate exercise, such as running, can be the answer.  

In one 2011 study, participants not taking medication for depression started an exercise routine. Researchers monitored their progress. The results were impressive. About 30% of participants who did exercise alone had results similar or better than those who just took medication. 

These and similar findings have prompted some doctors to prescribe exercise to their patients. 

3 - Running Releases Endorphins

Going out for your run will reduce stress and boost positive feelings. How so? Step one, mentioned above, is that moderate exercise reduces stress hormones. Step two is the release of endorphins. 

Ever heard of a “runners high”? It’s for real. The release of endorphins in the brain brings on a relaxed, optimistic mood. In fact, you can feel a significant improvement in your mood just 5 minutes into a run.

4 - Running Appeals to Both Introverts and Extroverts

Some people need to spend time alone to calm down and escape from stress. Running is great for them - it can be an isolationist’s dream exercise. Hitting the trail to run out in nature, far from anyone else, is perfect for an introvert’s state of mind.

But running can be a social sport too. Running groups and clubs organize large-scale events to get their members motivated.

Big city marathons draw thousands upon thousands of participants. While some are elites, the majority are not. They just love to enjoy their sport in the company of thousands of like minded individuals.

Other races, like 50 mile ultramarthons, draw a different crowd. Even so, the common thread is a social scene that appeals to an extrovert's way of life and improves their mood. 

Regardless of your preference, you can find the perfect setting to get you into a pleasant mood.

5 - Running Helps You Reach Goals

Reaching personal goals is a great way to build self esteem and feel more confident. And running is an excellent platform for goal setting.

This is especially true for beginners. Watching yourself go from couch-potato to 5K finisher is an undeniable mood boost.

Other running goals that you can reach and enjoy include:

  • Running your first half marathon
  • Running your first marathon
  • Reaching a PR 
  • Qualifying for the Boston Marathon

Enjoy the Benefits

There are lots of ways to get fit. You may prefer running, lifting, joining a CrossFit gym, or any other program. Each has its own unique benefits and challenges. Regardless, making fitness a priority is a decision you will never regret.

Running in particular offers mood-boosting benefits that are worth the effort. So get out there. Get in today’s run. Come back proud of your accomplishments. And remain confident that you're improving your mood each time run.

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