You probably started running because you wanted a physical transformation that you can be proud of. Aside from helping you lose or maintain your ideal weight, running also makes you stronger, faster, and more tolerant of difficult workouts.
On a more serious note, running minimizes your risk for illnesses like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart diseases, stroke, and some cancers. Indeed, when you follow an appropriate training plan, running can significantly change your health and appearance in just a few months.
What Makes Running Good for Your Brain?
For those who are also looking for ways to improve their mental state, you’ll be thrilled to know that running offers some mental benefits as well. Running tends to be calming and relaxing when you’re in the zone, but apparently, its effects go deeper than that.
If you need a simple yet powerful solution to help turn your life around, running a few times per week may be the answer. Listed below are 6 reasons why running also serves as a brain workout:
1. Increases Volume of Brain Tissue
While running can make your heart and your legs stronger, apparently it can also make your brain more powerful. That’s because running, and exercise in general, encourages neurogenesis and angiogenesis. Neurogenesis is the growth of new nerves, while angiogenesis is the growth of new blood vessels.
Neurogenesis and angiogenesis are important processes that help increase the volume of your brain tissues. What does this mean for your brain? The more brain tissues you have, the better your brain can work.
This is particularly helpful if you need that extra brain power in any aspect of your life. Whether you need it for work, or you simply want to retain knowledge more effectively, running can make you smarter and more productive than you were before.
2. Provides Stress Relief
Some people turn to running to escape the stresses involved in their daily lives. While running does provide an effective outlet, the reason why it works goes deeper than being a mere distraction from one’s troubles.
That’s because cardiovascular exercises like running can help minimize stress with the help of endorphins, which is a feel-good hormone. If you wish to improve your current mood and lower your stress levels, running can give you adequate amounts of endorphins and get you in a better headspace.
You can expect to feel happier when your brain secretes more endorphins. In a way, this is what makes running “addicting” to some runners.
To get the most out of running’s stress relief properties, it’s recommended to run in areas where there are very little distractions. This allows you to just indulge yourself in running, without worrying about anything else.
3. Boosts Memory and Learning Abilities
One run may not be able to do anything much to your brain, but regular running can drastically improve your memory and learning ability over time. In fact, studies show that sticking with a running routine for at least a few months can boost the size of your hippocampus.
A bigger hippocampus entails better memory function. Hence, if you go out for a run from time to time, you’ll be able to process and retain more of what you’ve learned.
4. Develops Mindfulness
Running has that therapeutic effect that can put you in a Zen mode. It makes you hyperaware of the current moment that you forget about your other troubles.
In a way, it can serve as an active form of meditation because it encourages you to focus on the here and now, all while breaking a sweat. In order to stay safe and within your limits, you’ll need to mind your surroundings, your strides, and your breathing.
Depending on how you perform your workouts, you may even enter the flow state. It’s a state in which your mind and body are perfectly aligned, and all that matters is what you’re currently doing.
Oftentimes, we allow ourselves to be caught up with things and thoughts that we have no control over. Running brings you back to what’s essential, helping you forget about the irrelevant stuff.
5. Enhances Sleep Quality
Sleep is an important component of maintaining good physical and mental health. Yes, exercising and learning new things are important in your quest to improve your life. However, no improvement is going to stick if you don’t get enough sleep.
If you have trouble falling asleep, running can help normalize your sleeping schedules. It may not instantly enhance your sleep quality, but if you carefully follow your running routines, your body clock will eventually adjust to the right sleeping and waking times.
Good sleep helps improve your brain health and allows you to perform better in almost any task. Sleeping pills may help you get to dreamland quicker, but running may be the safer and more efficient way to do that.
6. Helps You Stay Happy
The fast-paced nature of modern society makes people more prone to stress, anxiety, and depression. Running, together with mindfulness techniques and mental health intervention, can stimulate serotonin and norepinephrine production.
Like endorphins, serotonin and norepinephrine are mood boosters that can help reduce depressive episodes. In fact, running can sometimes be more effective than prescribed antidepressants.
However, if you’re actually diagnosed with depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness, make sure that you thoroughly discuss things with your doctor before you give up any of your meds. In any case, running is a good way to channel your depressive energy into something productive.
Overall, running is a reliable happiness pill, and its effects can go beyond your workout session. Because it doesn’t involve any chemical shortcuts, it’s a more sustainable way of keeping your mental health stable.
Running Exercises Both the Body and the Mind
When done consistently, running makes you more in tune with both your body and mind. While people mainly run because of its physical benefits, it’s also a great way to develop your mental prowess. Over the long term, running proves to be an accessible solution for improving your overall health.