But there has been an unexpected benefit as well – a more peaceful mind. Having been an anxious person since childhood, I was willing to try many things to reduce my anxiety symptoms. Some worked but had side effects, some didn’t work at all, and some worked for a short time and then stopped working. Running works best of all.
Of course everyone knows that exercise can help depression and anxiety, however it is usually the last thing someone wants to do when they are depressed or anxious. But once I got into a regular running routine, by joining a running group and developing a training routine, I found that I was motivated to get out there and run.
How does running calm my anxiety?
- It has been proven that exercise releases certain hormones that reduce anxiety (for example, endorphins).
- Running increases body temperature, which has been shown to have a calming effect on the body.
- As I continued my running program, I lost weight and became more fit. This led to an increase in my self-confidence, which reduced a source of stress in my life.
- Running is a form of meditation for me; it allows my mind to stop the constant thinking and ruminating that I am prone to. While I run I can let my mind calm down and enjoy the sensations of the ground under my feet, the air on my skin, the sun on my face, and the trees, birds and scenery around me.
- Running with a group is a social experience for me. I have made new friends and I enjoy the camaraderie we have during our runs. Social interaction is another way to reduce anxiety.
- Exercise has been shown to increase alertness and concentration, allowing me to perform better at work, which in turn reduces another area of stress in my life. I rarely worry about making mistakes at work.
- On the days that I run, I sleep much better. Getting a good night’s sleep greatly reduces anxiety symptoms for me.
Although I do like to train for long distance races, it is not necessary to be a marathon runner to enjoy the anxiety reducing benefits of running.
Getting outside every day for a 15 to 30 minute walk or run can also provide the same benefits. I find that I have less anxiety when I do my running outside, rather than on a treadmill, but even doing treadmill exercise can be helpful. Listening to music or audiobooks can also enhance the experience for some people.
I have found running to be a huge stress reliever in my life, and I highly recommend it for everyone.