Running gave me my life back –
Over the last couple of years, there’s one thing that has helped me get my life back on track. And no, I’m not trying to be dramatic or to use empty metaphors.
I mean every word I say; running literally saved my life. Anyone who has been through difficult times, has had to face mental or physical obstacles, severe losses, miscarriage, or a stillbirth could become depressed or, alternatively, as I would like to suggest here… they could start running.
Something in the events I went through made me become a more passive, more submissive, less enterprising person. Simply switched off. The fire inside me seemed to have gone out forever. Until the day I started running. I wasn’t fit. On the contrary, I was 25 kilos overweight and physically and mental fatigued. But, every day, at my own pace, I started running. At first, it wasn’t pleasant, even a burden. But slowly, slowly, I began to understand something important about running. It gets rid of all the negative energy in my body, all the traumas I’d been through; it gives my body a good shakeup and makes me love myself again. At the time, I stopped looking at my body in the mirror; it had become my whole world. My body remained the same, with its pregnant belly and all the excess weight but the mind…. Oh wow, my mind woke up a bit. Each morning, I rediscovered that running allows me to cleanse myself, probably more than anything else can.
It’s impossible to explain how a body can stop caring for itself, how it ceases to exist in some ways. And running …… well, that’s my drug of choice today. It helps me realize that I’m capable of anything. It reminds me of who I was and who I could still be.
I cannot say where I would be today if I hadn’t started running a year and a half ago. And I don’t need a scientific study to tell me the truth. I learned the truth firsthand:
Running gave me my life and the will to live back. It gave me what everything else I had tried, had failed to do.
It’s important for me to mention that I had never liked to run, I never wanted to run. It’s not even something I liked. My love of running was born out of crisis, chaos, and a loss of purpose. Out of all those years of fertility treatments, miscarriages, D&Cs, and more.
The crises I battled through helped me to get to know a new and fascinating field of therapy through running. Running can also benefit someone undergoing IVF treatments because of the many benefits running has for the mind and the body.
In sport, we basically make our body endure hardship. To endure pain. To ultimately suffer. But what? It’s the only way to develop a shapely body, to be fit, to develop muscles. If we just sit around, nothing will happen on its own. And what about the mind? It’s exactly the same.
A soul that has not endured hardship will never develop and grow.
You can see children of extremely rich people become addicted to hard drugs and end up in the gutter. The reason is that they have been handed everything on a platter and have not had to endure a single hardship their entire life.
What is running therapy?
Running therapy is the relaxed use of strength and stamina through moderately intensive exercise. Studies have demonstrated the positive results of exercise in cases of depression, anxiety, addiction, and chronic pain. In addition, exercise strengthens the body, encourages relaxation, and improves mood in general. People who exercise regularly at a moderate intensity level show a marked improvement in their physical and mental health.
The added value of running therapy is the extra attention that is paid to the closely-related body-mind connections. Running therapy uses the act of running to encourage and facilitate the process of changing mentally.
In running therapy, you run between 20 minutes and an hour. The idea is to run a long distance but not fast, allowing you the opportunity to engage in internal dialogue with yourself.
Why should you run?
To explain the importance of running, below is an article that represents more than 70 academic articles on the positive effects of running. Each claim is backed up by scientific research. Links to some of the academic articles be found at the end of the article.
74 Benefits of Running Backed by Science
Some 20 – 25 minutes of running can transform your mind, body, and soul.
This is not an exaggeration. All these exercise benefits are backed by various scientific studies.
When you read about just one or two benefits, it is easy to overlook and continue with your sedentary routine.
We wanted to create something more powerful. Something that is hard to ignore. So, we reviewed and compiled hundreds of studies to present the incredible, almost life-changing effects of running.
Caution: The infographic that follows will make you seriously consider taking up running as a daily activity. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Within 30 minutes:
No need to wait months to see the benefits. Your daily portion of running will start to show benefits almost immediately.
You’re pumped up and ready to go:
- Ever heard of “hitting the ground running”? That’s both literally and scientifically. Research has shown that exercise can instantly boost mood and help you start the day in full force.
- Running is probably the best way to beat “the Monday morning blues”. If you are feeling depressed, 20 minutes of running can work like an antidepressant and lift your mood.
- Another study also found that exercise can be as good as an antidepressant.
You are mentally relaxed.
- Running prepares you to cope with daily stress and challenges without getting panicked. You will stop overthinking and feel more relaxed. This is because running can immediately reduce the activity in the frontal cortex. This makes running is the simplest and the healthiest way to break free from the daily grind.
- Running also helps with anxiety disorder and panic attacks. Scientists have used the carbon-dioxide challenge test to determine the connection between anxiety sensitivity and physical activity. They found that more physically active people were less likely to panic in fearful situations even if they have anxiety sensitivity. Scientists used the carbon-dioxide challenge test to determine the connection between anxiety sensitivity and physical activity. They found that more physically active people were less likely to panic in fearful situations even if they have anxiety sensitivity.
You are high (without drugs):
- Running can elevate your mood like recreational drugs because it stimulates the same pleasure and reward receptors. This is the reason many addiction therapies include a lot of exercise.
- Running triggers production of endocannabinoids that makes you happier and more focused.
- Researchers found that exercise improves mood and creativity, independently of each other. Imagine how much more you can achieve with a good mood and creativity?
All your body systems are fine-tuned:
It’s not just the mood or mental state. Running will fine tune almost all parts and systems of your body.
- It will regulate your blood pressure. A meta-analysis of various studies concludes that aerobic exercise can be a non-pharmacological (drug free) treatment for hypertensive people.
- Running improves insulin sensitivity. Your blood sugar will come down instantly because the muscles will use the glucose or energy during the running.
- 30 minutes of running combined with the warmups and stretching (45 minutes in total) will boost your metabolism for the next 14 hours.
It is just the beginning. The real benefits will start to show as the day progresses.
After 24 hours:
After 24 hours, no matter if you are a student, a high-tech person, a business person, or an entrepreneur, running will help you get the most out of your day.
You are more productive:
- A study found that employees are happier and more efficient at workplace on days when they exercise. The improvement in mood or performance wasn’t observed on days when they don’t exercise.
The study talks about the workplace but we can safely assume that the better mood and performance will help in all areas of life.
You feel more confident:
- Running will make you think highly of yourself. A meta-analysis of 57 studies found that exercise boosts people’s confidence and improve their body image.
- It can also work as an effective tool to boost self esteem in kids. A study suggests that running or exercise can increase self-esteem in children or young people.
A high energy level improves our confidence and more importantly, our perceived attractiveness.
You are smarter:
- You will learn and process information faster at office, in classroom, or any other environment. A study looked at different recreational activities and their impact after a learning period. The group that was made to run performed better than any other group in the study.
- Running results in increased cortisol levels that is needed for better memorization and information retention. Another study found that aerobic activity increases BDNF that boosts memory. (BDNF, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, is a substance that is secreted into the intercellular environment of the brain during an activity and stimulates the nerve cells to grow and develop)
You are in control of your life:
- Aerobic exercise like running will activate the brain area that is responsible for executive functions like attention control, working memory, or cognitive flexibility. It will help you work towards achieving your goals without losing focus (and your mind).
- This is supported by the results of another study. Two groups were exposed to a stressful situation. The group that was physically fit managed to deal with negative emotions and maintain a positive outlook.
Your body is at it even when you stop:
- Running helps you burn a lot of calories. Everybody knows that. What you might not know is that your body does not stop even you’ve stopped running. You will burn another 190 calories within the next 14 hours.
You are sleeping like a baby.:
- Running will help you sleep more easily and quickly. It will also improve the time and quality of your sleep.
Running therapy – After a month
We just discussed some instant benefits but the real ones will start to show when you have made it a routine. Here’s how you are doing after a month.
You are becoming a quick learner:
- Running stimulates growth of fresh grey matter in brain. Just a month of running will result in thousands of new brain cells. This means you will learn new stuff a lot more quickly and easily. Not to forget that you are more focused and awake. You will adapt to changes and deal with new challenges more efficiently.
What does it mean for you? For students, it means better grades. For professionals, it means more chances of promotions and opportunities. For businesses and entrepreneurs, it means profits.
You are inspiring others to exercise:
- You have become an inspiration for your friends and family members. Sharing your daily routine and milestones will push your friends to start running and surpass your stats.
Studies have shown that an extra kilometer by a friend can inspire others to improve upon the distance or time. This is especially true for men. Besides, the positive changes in your mood and outlook will also encourage your friends to follow your footstep.
You are breaking bad habits:
- Running can help you curb the bad habits or addictions like recreational drugs, smoking, or excessive drinking. After just a few weeks, you will feel that the cravings are not as strong. You will be keen to eat something healthy after long bursts of running.
You are making smart choices:
- It’s not just the diet. You will start to make = smarter and healthier choices in other aspects of life. Self control will improve, resulting in far less impulsive decisions.
You will be able to forgo instant pleasure in return of long-term health and wellbeing. That means no more regrets or guilty feelings.
You are feeling electric all day:
- Fatigue is no more a constant feature of your life. There’s no shortage of energy while carrying day to day tasks. In a study, the group that exercised felt “much better” compared to those who did not exercise.
- A 6 week trial of young adults who reported persistent feeling of tiredness found improvements in energy levels and a drop in fatigue.
- Running will boost your energy levels and that ever-present tiredness will be replaced with a childlike enthusiasm.
You are mentally strong:
Mental illnesses and psychological disorders are on the rise but you don’t need to worry. You are far less likely to suffer from any of those conditions because of your running routine.
- Research has shown that running in natural environment work as a shield against mental health conditions. Going to gym or working out at home cannot provide these benefits.
- You are not distracted easily and your mind doesn’t keep wandering all the time. It is much easier to concentrate on what you are doing. This will improve your productivity and you will do more in less time.
- By now, running has greatly improved your sleeping habits. Your mind and body are getting the much-needed rest. A relaxed mind is a powerful mind and it results in better psychological functioning.
Running therapy – After 6 months
Your love life has improved:
- Running can significantly improve free testosterone levels in men, especially the intensive interval running workouts. Testosterone is responsible for high libidos and sex drive in men. You can also try trail running if road running is too easy for you.
- Exercise can also improve the sperm count while endurance training improves reproductive potential. All in all, you will be a more desirable and attractive partner.
- The benefits are not limited to men. Research has also shown that 20 minutes of vigorous running can boost physiological sexual arousal in women.
And the most interesting part is yet to come.
- In a survey by Brooks Running, 66% respondents said that couples who run together have sex more often. Not only that, but almost half of them think that the longer you run, the better your sex life.
You are a better, more affectionate person:
Running can improve your ability to express your emotions and your affection.
- A study found improvement in men’s attitudes and behavior. This is an interesting finding because men are generally not good at showing emotions.
Suppressing emotions is not very healthy. Plus, showing affection and emotions will also help your friends and family.
You are keeping your heart healthy:
More than 30% adults in US have high LDL (i.e., bad cholesterol). Luckily, you are far less likely to suffer from that problem.
- Running just 7 – 14 miles a week can keep your cholesterol levels in check.
- You are also adhering to American heart association recommendation of 150 minutes physical activity to maintain healthy blood pressure.
- Another factor contributing to your cardiovascular health is low C-reactive protein levels. If you were living a sedentary lifestyle, just six months of running or exercise will result in a 30% reduction in C-reactive protein. This will not only reduce the chances of inflammation but your IQ will also improve.
- Training for your first marathon can reverse age related vascular stiffening. This study confirms that it can trim up to 4 years off the arterial age. In other words, your arteries will be 4 years younger after a few months of long-distance running.
All in all, running has significantly reduced the chances of heart attack, stroke, and other serious complications.
You are keeping your blood sugar in control:
- A study observed 51% reduction in hemoglobin A1C values in runners. This is a significant improvement. The results were even better for the group that combined aerobic exercise with weight training.
- If you already have diabetes, regular running will reduce the risk of diabetes related heart attack to 20% and eye or kidney damage to 40%.
- Another review of multiple studies found that diabetes patients can control blood sugar and depression via exercise.
You are living a healthy lifestyle:
Running will gradually affect and improve your diet and lifestyle habits. You will manage to cut down your booze intake and avoid having those heavy drinking periods.
- A study found that the exercise group managed to make healthy changes to their drinking habits. The group that just received health advice doesn’t do much.
Sounds familiar? Because we do it all the time. Receive healthy advice and do nothing. Running will make you do things.
You are more intelligent:
- Running results in a kind of connectivity that allows your brain to have higher-level thoughts. Thinking out of the box isn’t that hard because you can analyze and solve problems.
- There’s another study that shows high impact running can improve learning.
- It’s easier to focus on challenging tasks. You are more comfortable taking up and managing projects that requires attention to details.
- You will also excel in your job as a manager or leader. Decision making is a vital part in such roles. Daily exercise can significantly improve your ability to make decisions. This was observed in a 9-month study by the American Council on Exercise and exercise resulted in 70% improvement in ability to make complex decisions.
Running therapy – After a year
It is almost a year since you started running. That’s quite an achievement and the rewards are worth it.
You are stronger and sturdier:
- Running on a regular basis results in neuromuscular changes that leads to better running efficiency. You are now able to run longer distances while consuming less energy. Your muscles and tendons will adapt to high workload and it will help in other physical tasks or sports as well.
- Strong knees or back can mean so much especially as you age. Contrary to the popular belief, your knees will actually get healthier because of your regular running routines.
- An estimated 80% of the population suffers from back problems at some time in life. It is one of the most common reasons for visit to doctors. Thanks to running, you will be able to keep these problems at bay. Earlier it was believed that exercise cannot help intervertebral discs in anyway. Mainly because it is too slow to respond but a recent study has shown that running can actually strengthen the discs.
- Running will also strengthen your thighs, quads, or hamstrings. These are some of the most important muscles in your body.
You are in high spirits:
- Mental and emotional sufferings cannot bog you down for long. Running produces the chemicals that help you fight and forget physical pain. It gives you the feel-good emotions.
- The benefits will multiply if you are combining aerobic with meditation. It will considerably reduce depressive feeling.
- Running will also improve your academic achievement. This is great even if you are not a student. As a professional, you can progress in your career by enrolling into some professional course or certification program.
- A sedentary lifestyle results in sad and sucky feelings that just don’t go away. Running will break that cycle and have a rejuvenating effect on your mind and body.
You look good:
Earlier, we have discussed that running can improve your perceived attractiveness but it is not limited to perceptions.
- Running can actually improve your looks in many ways. You will get back in shape. Your complexion will improve and you are less likely to face problems like acne or pimples. A more upright posture will also add to your appearance.
Running will help you excel at anything you do. Isn’t that great?
Running therapy – After 10 years
Even as you grow old, running has got you covered in many ways.
You are not overweight:
- Many people gain unnecessary weight by the time they reach 40. That becomes a breeding ground for problems like diabetes, obesity, or depression. You can manage to keep these problems at bay by running.
- Another common problem in the 40s or 50s is poor bone health and osteoporosis. 1 in 3 women suffer from osteoporosis fracture after the age 50.
- Luckily, your legs, knees, and backs are stronger than your contemporaries. You can considerably improve your bone health through running.
- Running strengthens your core muscles too. These muscles are responsible for supporting your stomach and spine. It makes it easy to maintain a healthy, upright posture.
You are still going strong:
- Running will considerably lower your risk of cancers like colon cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, or breast cancer.
- Your heart health is envious because running or aerobics are considered the best form of exercise for cardiovascular health.
- Running is also helping you deal with emotional pain or suffering from the past. found that marathon runners tend to forget physical pain when inquired after six months. An overall good health means that there is significantly lower chance of premature death.
You don’t just feel young. You are young.
After 25 years
It has been a long time. Keeping up with your running routine is no mean feat. Only 20% of adults in the US meet the physical activity recommendations. You belong to the elite.
You look younger:
- You look much younger than your age. This is because of regular physical activity that slows down biological aging. Research suggests that high levels of physical activity can reduce up to 9 years of biological aging.
- Skin is usually the first thing that give away your age. Running can help you look much younger by keeping your skin healthy and fresh. A study found that 40-year old people who regularly exercise had skin like 20 or 30 years old.
- Not just biological aging, running will actually add years to your life. In a study, researchers found an average gain of 3.5 to 4.5 years in the life expectancy of people who performed regular exercise. People with smoking habit added 4.1 years. Non smokers added 3 more years while cancer survivors added as much as 5.3 years to their lives.
You will live longer:
- Scientists followed 1000 adults for 21 years. All these adults were aged 50 or older. After 21 years, 85% runners were alive and kicking while just 66% non-runners managed to survive.
- Another study found that the runners continue to live an active life and have fewer disabilities compared to the ones who don’t. They were also half as likely to die early deaths. Most runners in this study ran around 4 hours a week, though the time declined after 21 years.
Keep in mind that this longevity is not because of just running. It is because of the habits and lifestyle changes you will cultivate through a regular exercise regime. We have discussed how running can help you adapt healthy eating habits, quit smoking, improve your sleep, and mental health? All these changes will definitely contribute to longevity.
Don’t try to overdo the running in a bid to add more and more years. Excessive running can be dangerous.
- Scientists followed 20,000 people over a period of 35 years. After 35 years, more than 10,000 people who did not jog died. Only 122, who jogged on a regular basis died in the same period. That is a huge difference but it is important to note that strenuous joggers had the same mortality rate as those who do not jog at all.
You are living your life to the fullest:
- Running will not just add the numbers. It will also add and improve the quality of life. For example, you have a 41% lower risk of getting cataracts, which is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in elderly.
- A study of 70 year old participants who have a lifelong habit of doing exercise found that their heart, lungs, and muscles are as good as those of 40 years old.
- Dementia or brain diseases are a common problem in the older age. And again, you are far less likely to suffer from this problem even in your 80s.
- Running will improve your skeletal metabolic fitness.
- Running can also reduce the speed of age related mental decline. It means you will have a better working memory or task switching capability in the old age.