By Dylan Broggio, LCSW-R
There is a healing power to running. In high school I would take off for long runs down gravel roads covered by lush towering trees. In college I would run the 9 mile perimeter of campus, to clear writers block, or de-stress during exams. Whatever the stress, a good hard run made my problems shrink to a manageable size.
Numerous studies have shown that exercise stimulates the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine, and beta-endorphin, all of which elevate mood and reduce depression and anxiety. Keith Johnsgard, Ph.D, author of “Conquering Depression and Anxiety Through Exercise”, highlights a few ways to get the most mental health benefit out of your running or other aerobic exercise:
1. Run at least 20-30 minutes to get 5-6 hours of reduction in negative emotions such as anxiety, anger, or depression.
2. Take a few deep breaths at the start and imagine breathing in positive energy, and exhaling the stressful or anxious emotions.
3. Run outside. Being in nature helps us realize life is a lot bigger than our problems.
4. Increase Intensity. The mental and physical benefits increase as the intensity increases. No pain, no gain!
5. Run with a friend or in a group. For added social support and connection. Your running buddy or group can be a great sounding board and/or provide some great laughs!