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Runner’s High Can Do Wonders for Your Mental Health — Here's How

October 11, 2019DMT.NEWS

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The Truth Behind Runners High and Its Effect on Your Mental Health

Running isn’t just a form of exercise — it’s an escape.

It’s an opportunity to free yourself from any anxieties and stress that have built up, leaving them where you first lifted your soles off the ground. Sure, it’s not everyone’s go-to when it comes to working out, but there’s something special about this activity that lets you go off and come back feeling accomplished. Whether you sprint to the end or leisurely zig zag towards your personal finish line, it doesn’t matter. You’re in the driver’s seat, and the control is yours.

RELATED: How to Teach Yourself to Not Hate Running

Like many other forms of physical activity, running releases endorphins, supporting your mental health and stability in numerous ways. And that so-called “runner’s high” that people talk about? Yep, it’s a real thing, and it has plenty of benefits that you probably don’t even know about.

AskMen spoke with Reebok Boston Track Club pro-runner Amy-Eloise Markovc to learn a little more about runner’s high, running’s overall effect on mood and physical health’s relation to mental health.

AskMen: So what exactly is a runner’s high? How would you describe it?

Amy-Eloise Markovc: A runner’s high is when the body releases chemicals, including endorphins, in response to exercise. These chemicals interact with receptors in the brain, and can give you a sense of euphoria, help reduce anxiety, and reduce perception of pain. Because intense physical activity typically triggers a bigger chemical response, running is a particularly good way to stimulate this "high."

Is there a huge difference between running and walking the same distance? 

When you are exerting a greater amount of physical effort, your body releases more endorphins; this is why you are more likely to experience a "high" after running. However, walking is a great transition into running if you are just getting started! Either way, both are relatively accessible and time-efficient ways to positively impact your physical and mental health. 

Let’s talk about running and its effect on your mood. How does it compare to other forms of fitness or athletics?

Runner's high aside, I find that running has such a powerful impact on my mood because it gives me time to think through and process any stresses in my life. Because running is so individual, it allows you to listen to your body, quiet your mind, and feel a huge sense of accomplishment when you push past your prior limits. While I love running in a group setting, sometimes the best thing for my body and mind is a solo run.

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A post shared by Amy-Eloise Markovc (Neale) (@amyeloisem) on Jul 30, 2019 at 4:25pm PDT

For someone not very experienced with running, keeping a steady pace and so on, how would they ease themselves into a routine?

If you’ve never really run before, then I would suggest starting short and slow. Alternating intervals of running and walking is also a great way of incorporating running into your exercise routine. Building gradually is crucial to preventing injury, and you can reap the mental health benefits of running, regardless of the speed you're going.

What about the proper footwear, is there a certain type of shoe to wear when running on specific terrain?

Floatride Run Fast is great for my speed days because it feels super lightweight while still offering enough support. Forever Floatride Energy is my most versatile training shoe. It is cushiony without sacrificing responsiveness, so I can comfortably wear it for both longer runs and faster intervals. Floatride Run Fast Pro is my go-to for race day. It’s the lightest shoe I own, with single-layer mesh and responsive foam that makes me feel instantly faster when I put it on.

Three Reebok running shoes

When’s the best time to run? Will a certain period of the day affect your mood differently?

The best time to run varies from person to person, based on preference and schedules. I personally love my morning runs the most; I find that fitting a run in before the day really starts can make me feel more motivated overall. Especially if I've got a stressful day ahead, I like the feeling that I've already done something really productive, both physically and mentally. Plus, there is nothing more empowering than starting your day doing something that you didn't know you could.

What about running the same path every day, is that beneficial in any way?

Getting yourself into a good running routine and route can be helpful especially when you’re in the middle of a stressful time in your life. Some people may find that the stability and structure are helpful during times of change. That being said, I also love to explore and find new routes to keep my training interesting.

Why do you think it’s important to have these discussions about mental health, specifically tied to physical fitness and running?

In general, people shy away from discussing their mental health; people are much less likely to seek help for a mental versus physical health issue. Having these discussions help normalize problems that many people are experiencing! The great thing about exercise is that it's both great for both the body and mind, but it may not be a complete solution for many people. It is incredibly important to reach out to a medical professional if you are struggling with poor mental health.

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Sean Abrams, Khareem Sudlow

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