5 Ways Running Helps to Improve Mood!

running benefits mental health

Running Has Lots of Great Benefits!

By: Costa Provis

There are several benefits to running. Besides the obvious physical ones like weight-loss and cardiovascular endurance, getting into a regular routine of running has lots of meaningful psychological advantages. We’ve written about exercise and mindfulness on the blog before and so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to talk about running.

I am the first to admit that the weather in Chicago is not always conducive to this mostly outdoor activity but given that we are well into spring, I figured: “Why not?”

What follows are five great reasons to include running into your regular wellness routine. Obviously you will want to get permission from your doctor first before embarking on any fitness program. Once you get the green light however, the benefits listed below are yours for the taking.

Check it out these five mental health bennies!

five benefits running


1) Stress Relief

Not unlike other forms of exercise, running gives us the physical activity/outlet to release pent-up energy and even anxiousness.  Beyond that, it also give us the time and peace of mind (once that initial pain goes away of course) to think about and process our worries, stressors, etc.

You can even figure out solutions to difficult life situations better because running helps to clear the mind.  For me personally, I have resolved many questions and/or situations while out on a run, both my own and my clients’. 

2) Mental & Cognitive Enhancement

In addition to the stress relief we can experience as a result of jogging and the time we get to spend alone in reflection, thinking, listening to music, etc. there are also clear benefits for our brains. 

Cardiovascular exercise is known to create new brain cells (a process called neurogenesis) in the area of the brain called the hippocampus.  This part of the brain is primarily responsible for memory function, and there are strong links between jogging regularly and enhanced memory / brain power. 

3) Improved Mood

Have you ever heard (or better yet experienced) a “runner’s high”?  Interestingly this term is more accurate than most people realize.  When we run our brain releases a boost of endorphins, which are the body’s natural “feel-good” hormones.  These hormones create a feeling of “internal goodness”. 

People who run 3-4 times per week on average experience greater levels of happiness and report less depression and anxiety when compared to non-runners.  Think of it as a free and really healthy way to boost endorphins and chaser your own runner’s high.

4) Better Self-Esteem

Last, but certainly not least, one of (if not the) greatest benefit of running is the positive impact on self-esteem.  On one hand, people often experience weight-loss and improved physical health from jogging.  This makes them feel better about themselves and is often reinforced by other people in the forms of compliments or more attention. 

As we lose weight and get stronger we feel better about ourselves.  There is also a huge psychological impact on self-concept as we work hard to achieve running goals.

5) Sense of Accomplishment

We experience a great sense of accomplishment with each new run, and research supports the idea that the more successful a person feels the more productive they actually become. 

So, in a very real way, jogging can help us be more productive, feel accomplishment, and boost our overall self-esteem. 

Final Thoughts

Running / jogging has so many wonderful and significant benefits to offer us all.  Jogging for just 30 minutes, 3-4 times per week can be more than enough to give you these 4 essential benefits. 

Once you get into the habit of running you will experience greater stress relief, better mental and cognitive abilities, an enhanced mood, and heightened self-esteem. 

When you look at it this way, it almost seems silly not to lace up your gym shoes and outside right now.  If you struggle with motivation, or are not sure how to get started working with a trained professional or a life coach could certainly help you achieve these amazing benefits of jogging. 

There are also plenty of resources online, including my personal favorite “Couch to 5K” training program.  So there you have it. Talk to your doctor, get the green light and then grab those mental health benefits from running!