Why running can improve your mind

20 April 2017 by
First published: 13 May 2016

To celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week, here’s why running can improve your mind. As not only does goes for regular jogs whip you into shape physically, it can also benefit your mental health and wellbeing. And here’s five ways running helps your mind…

Keeps your brain sharp

If you’re looking to sharpen up and prevent ageing, there’s no better exercise than running. Recent research into exercise shows that running in particular can stimulate the growth of new nerve cells and blood vessels to develop within the brain. This helps to prevent the vital organ from shrinking, which is said to happen as we age. What’s more, pounding the pavement frequently encourages the volume of the midbrain to increase – the part that controls our vision and hearing – and so keeps your senses in tick. Even more reason to lace-up and run a few laps.

Improves your memory

As well as helping keep your brain healthy, running has also been proven to improve your ability to learn and recall information. One study of moderately active people showed those who ran recalled information more than those who didn’t. Add to this the fact that running enhances our ability to focus and multitask and you get a pretty strong case to take up this popular pastime.

Reduces anxiety

Feeling stressed and anxious? Try nature’s remedy and go for a run. Exercise, and more specifically running, has been linked to helping to combat a whole host of stress-related problems. In fact, research from Venezuela suggested that moving your legs produces the same effect (neurotransmitter signalling) as some anti-stress treatments available on the market. Whether this is strictly accurate still remains to be seen. One thing is for sure though, by moving your body and running it off you’ll give yourself a little ‘me-time’ to gather your thoughts without distraction. The result: a refreshed and less stressed individual.

Boosts your mood

It may be tough while you’re doing it, but as all running fans will point out you do feel good afterwards, thanks to the production of endorphins (feel-good hormones) during exercise. And if you push it hard enough, you could even experience what is known as a ‘runner’s high’. For a double whammy of mood-boosting action, switch from the treadmill to outside and find a green space to run in. Studies have shown that nature can also lift your spirits as well as expose your body to bone-building and mood-boosting vitamin D when the sun shines. The result is a healthier and happier you.

Encourages creativity

Forget brainstorms and enforced meetings to come up with solutions and think up new ideas. To get the creative juices flowing, go for a tough run and you’ll be surprised at how this improves your creative thinking afterwards. Perhaps it’s a distraction technique, or just the fact you’re given time to think clearly, but running can help unlock that creative block.

It certainly works for Haruki Murakami, Japanese author who wrote famously about running: ‘When I run, I think about everything: physics, family problems, plans for the weekend. I haven’t made any big discoveries on a run, but it does give me time to think through problems. Some solutions are obvious, but they are only obvious when you are relaxed enough to find them.’