Tonight I'd like to talk about running for stress relief. Running for me is like a state of Zen. It's just me, my breathing and my pace. I've been dealing with a lot of stress lately and, as has been the case during many stressful times in my life, running has been a great source of stress relief. Running can be the perfect distraction when you're dealing with a difficult situation. And the endorphins your body releases during running can give your mood a natural boost. Below, I'll explain more reasons why running is the perfect stress reliever and how I use running to help manage stress.
As the world becomes more health-conscious, there has been an increased focus on the importance of exercise. Many people exercise to control weight and get in better physical condition to become more healthy or physically attractive, but exercise and stress management are also closely linked. Exercise can be an extremely effective stress reliever for several reasons:
When life’s annoyances or frustrating situations build up, you can feel stressed or experience low-grade anger. More high-energy forms of exercise like boxing, martial arts or weight training can also provide an effective release of these negative emotions, turning these otherwise potentially unhealthy emotions into motivation for increased health and well-being.
Running can decrease ‘stress hormones' like cortisol and increase endorphins, your body's ‘feel-good’ chemicals, giving your mood a natural boost. This is the chemistry behind a runners high.
Physical activity itself can take your mind off of your problems and either redirect it on the activity at hand or get you into a Zen-like state. Exercise usually involves a change of scenery as well, either taking you to a gym, a dojo, a boxing ring, a park, a scenic mountain, a biking trail or a neighborhood sidewalk, all of which can be pleasant, low-stress places.
I have to include this possibly superficial, but significant, benefit of exercise: it helps you lose weight, tone your body, and maintain a healthy glow and a smile. You may feel a subtle but significant boost as your clothes look more flattering on, and you project an aura of increased confidence and strength. Call me shallow, but this does impact many people, and can relieve stress for those who are concerned with their appearance and worry that they don’t look as healthy as they could.
While stress can cause illness, illness can also cause stress, with the physical pain, missed activities, feelings of isolation and other costs that come with it. So improving your overall health and longevity with exercise can also save you a great deal of stress in the short run by strengthening your immunity to colds, the flu and other minor illnesses and the long run by helping you stay healthier longer, and enjoy life more because of it.
That's right, research suggests that physical activity, such as running may be linked to lower physiological reactivity toward stress. Simply put, those who run more exercise may become less affected by the stress they face. So, in addition to all the other benefits, running may supply some immunity toward future stress as well as a way to cope with current stress. If that's not a great reason to get more active, I don't know what is!