Mental health is hard. Between work, family, and other commitments, it can be tough to make time for mental health in your busy schedule. The benefits of cardio have long been touted as a great way to improve both your mental and physical health. Running provides many great benefits that other forms of exercise cannot provide. Here are a few reasons why running can help improve your mental health:
1. Cardio improves both your mental and physical health.
The benefits of cardio have long been touted as a great way to improve both your mental and physical health.
Cardio can help reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood, increase energy levels, help you sleep better, lose weight and live longer.
Running can be a great way to clear your head, relieve stress and increase self-confidence.
Personally, running has carried me through the most difficult times in my life. In March of 2020, I found myself trying to work full time as a middle school teacher from home while caring for our two young children, and handling the stress and anxiety of a global pandemic.
My daily runs got me outside, in nature, and kept me sane. Without those breaks from the anxiety I was feeling about my students, my job and my kids, not to mention my marriage, I don’t know now I would have made it through.
Has running helped you through a difficult time? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
2. Running is cheap.
Running is cheap. Really, really cheap. In fact, it’s one of the cheapest ways to get fit!
- You don’t have to buy a lot of gear to start running—just a pair of shoes and some comfortable clothes.
- Running doesn’t cost much once you’ve got your gear—the most significant expenses will likely be food, which can be quite inexpensive if you plan ahead and don’t mind eating simple meals like beans on toast or pasta with homemade sauce (or soups).
- Running races are often free or very low-cost; in fact, there are free regular 5k races in Jamaica Plain and Cambridge called the “Park Run” series. If you want something more organized than just jogging through your neighborhood, consider joining a running club in your neighborhood. You can find a list of free local running clubs around Boston here.
- Getting to the race site is usually pretty affordable too; it only takes gas money if there isn’t public transportation nearby. And as long as there aren’t major road closures or construction projects scheduled around your route on race day, driving shouldn’t take up too much time during your morning commute either!
3. Running improves your self-confidence.
Running is a great way to build your self-confidence. Running helps you feel accomplished, like you’ve done something with your day, and you can feel good about yourself. If you’ve ever missed out on an opportunity because of your lack of confidence, running can help you overcome that fear.
Running is one of those activities that can make the difference between being your happiest self, and just making your way through life, surviving. When people think about their lives, they often come up with regrets about what they’ve done or not done—and these regrets can be especially painful when it comes to sports and fitness. If you’re already doing something that makes you happy (i.e., running), then why not do all that you can do?
That’s where I find myself now: Accepting my limitations but also going for it anyway, no matter how hard—or easy—it may be.
4. Running gives you more time to think.
Running is a great way to clear your head. When you’re out on a run, it’s just you and the road. You can think about what’s going on in your life, or nothing at all—whatever works best for you. The more time that runners spend running, the more they report feeling more positive about their lives and themselves as individuals. Running helps them feel “more in control of their thoughts, actions and emotions than before they started running regularly,” according to one study from 2015 in which researchers asked over 3,000 participants about how often they ran (including those who said they didn’t run at all).
Running may also improve our ability to focus, since it requires paying attention to things like where we place our feet when we step or how hard we’re breathing so we can regulate both appropriately as needed throughout different parts of our runs. This control over our actions comes with increased self-awareness—which can also provide an additional benefit by helping us become less reactive when faced with stressful situations outside of running time because now we know exactly what needs doing next instead of panicking until everything feels overwhelming again!
If you’re not a runner, and it feels impossible for you, I urge you to keep an open mind. There are so many benefits to running that can help improve your mental health.
I specialize in helping people learn to run, no matter their current fitness or history of running.
Are you ready to learn the skills and habits of a runner, but not sure where to start? I can help!
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