Are you sick of the pandemic yet? Is it making you feel totally down in the dumps?
Mental health has been making headlines more and more the past couple of years – and now more than ever, thanks to the ongoing pandemic.
According to one study, “COVID-19 has tripled the rate of depression in US adults.” (1) Before the pandemic, only 8.5% of adults reported symptoms of depression. Now, that number has increased to 27.8%.
This increase is huge – and it means that a huge number of people are facing mental health problems like depression and anxiety. The authors of the study noted that this time, with COVID-19, the “rise is much higher than after previous major traumatic events” like the 9/11 terrorist attack and the Ebola outbreaks. (1)
As we continue dealing with the ongoing effects of the pandemic, mental health continues to decline. Now, more than ever, depression and anxiety are health concerns that can dominate our lives.
While mental health diseases like depression and anxiety are serious and often times require serious treatment, there are some things you can do to combat the symptoms and prevent them from getting worse.
Research shows that exercise, especially running or jogging, reduces stress and releases endorphins – feel-good chemicals. (2)
Yep, that’s right! That “runner’s high” you feel every now and then during your 5K could help combat depression.
One recent article from Very Well Fit said “experiencing that “runner’s high” triggers feel-good emotions that can boost your mood and reduce stress. Researchers believe that these positive feelings happen because running triggers the release of endorphins.” (2)
There’s a strong link between physical exercise and improved mental health. Running, specifically, is unique because it literally changes your brain.
In her recent article, Amanda Capritto said, “long-distance runners have more connections in areas of their brain that are associated with memory and self-control.” (3) Researchers say that running stimulates the growth of new grey matter in the brain.
The brain is the center of your emotions, your thought-processing, and your overall mental health. Creating new brain cells keeps your brain young and sharp. The new growth that come from running is essential in keeping your brain healthy.
Don’t think that you have to be a marathon runner to get the anti-depression benefits of running. Dr. Ivanov says that “running just 30 minutes per day is good enough to get your mind and body in shape.” (3)
The Mayo Clinic suggests 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day as a general goal. (4) Running is considered a vigorous aerobic exercise, so even shorter amounts can bring mental health benefits.
Dr. Zlatin Ivanov shared that running for just a few weeks can have huge benefits. “Just three to four weeks of running can mean thousands of newly produced brain cells,” he says. (3) All those new brain cells can keep your brain healthy as you age as well.
So, now that you know how important running is for your mental health, it’s time to decide – should you run outside? Or, should you run inside on your treadmill? Which one is better?
There are benefits and downsides to both. Running outdoors can be difficult in the cold winter months (rain and snow, yikes!) or the hot summer months (dehydration is a real concern) with high temperatures. But, one huge benefit is that running in nature is also great for your mental health – it decreases stress and anxiety and can reduce symptoms of depression. (5)
For treadmill runs, it’s often a little easier to motivate yourself to workout when your treadmill is right there in the living room. But you’ll miss the additional mental health benefits of being outside. But, there’s a lot of great ways to boost your treadmill workout, mixing up your workout routine and having fun with your fitness program.
Really, you can do both! Test out both and see which one is best for your lifestyle and fitness goals. Both running outdoors and on your treadmill releases endorphins, so you’ll get the mental health benefits either way.
Whether you go for a quick jog in the morning, or really get your grind on with a great 40-minute run session, getting your body moving will boost your mood and improve your overall mental health.
Obviously, running is not the only solution or the best solution for everyone struggling with depression or other mental health disorders. Many times, symptoms of depression can include fatigue, low energy or motivation, and less enjoyment from doing activities you once loved.
For that reason, if you are struggling with depression, you might find it very difficult to get outside and go on a run. If your symptoms are becoming too hard to deal with on your own, don’t wait. Reach out to a mental health professional today.