Physical stress leads to mental stress relief.
It’s been proven time and time again; exercising our bodies releases endorphins and suppresses adrenaline and other stress hormones. Any type of physical activity will do this to some extent but running and jogging puts this effect on metaphorical steroids.
Let’s just run through a few of the ways picking up your pace tamps down your angst, however valid it might be:
Running brings your focus to the moment you’re in and out of any past or future scenarios you may be preoccupied with. This is what mindfulness is all about, and you can practice it during any activity that requires your attention, as well as during meditation or yoga.
It relieves symptoms that come with anxiety including shallow breathing, numbness in hands and feet and heart palpitations by increasing your oxygen and blood flow. Regular running improves your normal breathing pattern, so you cope more effectively with future stressors.
Running has been shown to release the neurotransmitter known as GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid), which has been found to blunt the effect of stress-related hormones and symptoms on the body by reducing activity in neurons and throughout the nervous system, calming the mind and body.
Running improves sleep quality by releasing hormones that help your brain synch up with circadian patterns, slow the release of cortisol and result in a relaxed mood more conducive to the deep sleep we need to cope with stress.
Sustained physical activity prolongs the positive effect of exercise, so those on a regular exercise regimen report feeling less stress when a new obstacle arises than those who are less active on a day to day basis.
Still, you may not want to take off running if you’re so stressed that you can’t concentrate on anything else or your muscles are so tense that it could lead to injury. Taking a few extra minutes to stretch and warm up beforehand to get your mind and body in the right place can do the trick.
Photo of Prescott Circle Trail by Chris Hosking