Running Has a True Connection to Depression and Anxiety Relief — Here’s Why

Running has benefits that go further than just improving physical shape. If you’re dealing with anxiety or depression, running can actually positively impact your brain in ways that are similar to therapy. Even if you’re just dealing with stress, going for a morning jog or heading out on a run after work can help stabilize your mood in ways you probably didn’t know.

Exercise stabilizes your mood

You’ve probably heard of someone going for a run to clear their head. Our brains are regularly filled with thoughts, but if you’re dealing with anxiety, those thoughts can become all-consuming and greatly affect your mood. And for those with depression, it’s generally hard to turn a low mood around. Cue the relaxing jog. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), exercising will stabilize your mood. That’s because exercising releases endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that turn your frown upside down. Exercise has been shown to reduce tension and improve self-esteem, too, which are both critical for feeling your best when dealing with anxiety and depression.

Regular exercise can have the same effects as medication

Medications designed to decrease panic attacks or increase your mood can be incredibly helpful, but not everyone wants to take the medication route. Although regular exercise won’t cure depression or anxiety, the ADAA reports that it can reduce your symptoms the same way medication can. Since your mood becomes more stable and tension is reduced, you’re less likely to have a panic attack or have your mood take a downturn; the release of endorphins during exercise can have effects that last for hours. If you develop a regular exercise schedule, you can drastically decrease your anxiety or depression symptoms.

When your body feels better, so does your mind

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, right? Daily exercise can prevent anxiety and depression the same way eating healthy foods can keep you healthy. When you run, you feel better, which stems from those released endorphins. But it also allows you to escape that cycle of negative thoughts that you’re trapped in. It’s like therapy without the therapist. Plus, it can also give you the feeling that you’ve accomplished something. Setting a goal, such as training for a 5k or half marathon, gives you something to work toward. When you reach that goal, you build confidence, which can also help improve your mental health.

Those who are physically active have lower rates of anxiety and depression

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), those who are physically active are at a lower risk of developing anxiety and depression later in life. Although research has led to that conclusion, experts still don’t fully understand why that is. Some research suggests it stems from endorphins, but other research suggests something less understood: Exercise’s connection to the stress hormone norepinephrine. Norepinephrine has been shown to play a role in a person’s mood, but the real link between the two is still foggy.

But the effects do vary from person to person

When it comes to anxiety and depression relief techniques, results always vary from person to person. While someone may see amazing results from exercise, others may not. Although it’s a great alternative to medication, if you develop an exercise routine and stick with it for a while but realize it isn’t making a difference, it might be time to talk to a therapist or ask your doctor about medication. Pushing a problem away won’t solve it. In order to live a better quality of life, it’s important to get the proper help based on your needs.

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