It’s pretty obvious, if you look at a runner’s body or read some of the amazing stories online, that hitting the pavements or treadmill has a phenomenal impact on the body and looking at the physical benefits there are plenty of reasons to start running. Running is as much psychological as it is physical and understanding these psychological benefits of running is an important step to keep motivated.
In a European study conducted by Asics recently, the physical benefits proved to be the driving factor behind our decision to start running.
When Asics compared the reasons to start running versus reasons to keep on running the results were interesting in that the psychological benefits such as; mental reward increased by 78%, stress-release was up by 66% and the fun factor shot up 54% all in favour of keeping up the habit.
These results are interesting because they seem to point to – body first then mind – we start off wanting physical results and end up also reaping the mental benefits of running, and it’s mainly the mental benefits that motivate us to keep on running.
Here are four mental perks that get me psyched to tie my laces and head out the door… Almost without fail!
The Legal High
significant increase in the euphoria and happiness ratings
The folk lore of the ‘runner’s high’ has been like the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow for the better part of 30 years. Well, it is a myth no more, nuclear medical scientists have once and for all put the myth of the ‘runner’s high’ to rest.
Ten athletes were scanned before and after a two hour long run and the findings were published in ‘Cerebral Cortex’. What the scientists found was a significant increase in the euphoria and happiness ratings compared with ratings before the exercise. Through PET scanning they also found that endorphins produced during the running exercise attached themselves to areas of the brain associated with emotions, creating feelings of well-being and exhilaration clearly proving the existence of the ‘runner’s high’.
Combat Stress with Running
In a study published in Health Psychology scientists found that regular exercise acts as a buffer against the stresses of daily life. Ok granted the study was performed on a group of seven and eighth graders but experts agree that one of the best ways to manage stress is through regular exercise. Coming back from a run, relieved of the stress I had when I headed out is proof enough for me. As a runner I am better equipped to deal with the inevitable stress of daily life and work. I often use a run specifically to bring perspective into a situation or to leave a stressful day behind with a really intense workout or a long slow run.
Running also makes you sexier – burning fat and building muscle
Running requires you to constantly set and achieve goals – first you run 1km and then you run 2km and so on, eventually you’re running a distance of 10km as a regular run. This gives any runner a sense of accomplishment and confidence and over time this will develop into a healthy self-esteem. Running also makes you sexier – burning fat and building muscle is a natural part of running and runners are as proud of what their bodies can do as they are of how their bodies look.
Anyone for freshly squeezed creativity?
Are you stuck in a rut? Are you stumped with a project that needs a creative boost? Lace up your running shoes and head out for a run. It was always thought that the enhanced mood from exercise was the reason for an increase in creativity, but a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found differently.
In the study scientists used psychological testing of the mood and creativity of participants who watched a video and those who took part in physical exercise. What researchers found was that exercise boosts creativity independently of its effect on mood. So the next time you need some inspiration or have a problem to solve tap into this mental perk of running – who knows what wonderful ideas you might conjure up.
I’m quite sure there are many other mental perks that we get from running and each one of us will be motivated by those mental benefits of running that have the greatest effect on us. You might be motivated to run because of the creative boost it injects into your work projects whereas my motivation to run could come from my need to de-stress. The point is that there are so many wonderful mental perks we get from running – finding the ones that are important to you and that have the greatest impact on you will help you to cultivate motivation and keep you going.
Source of graphs: Asics – Why Do We Run.