Most runners will tell you that they choose to run to stay sane. Even though they may probably first started running to shape and strengthen their body or lose some weight, after a period of time, they got addicted to running mainly because it makes them feel good.
The technology of brain imaging discovered that there is a neurochemical activity that happens when we run which gives us the popular “runner’s high.” This is good news for anyone who suffers from depression and other mental health disorders.
Neurotransmitters are messengers that carry chemical signals between the neurons in the body. They also play a huge role in giving a sense of pleasure to a person who is running or performing another activity. Norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine are all feel-good chemicals that trigger the feeling of ‘pleasure’ in a person. Depression is merely a result of a decrease in norepinephrine and serotonin.
“Exercise can create a more responsive and balanced system,” says Kirk Erickson, a professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburg. Exercising affects the whole body and makes us feel good. It lowers the stress hormones and increases neurotransmitters as well as our body temperature which leads to reduced tension in our muscles and feelings of relaxation.
Moreover, a 1999 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, studied 156 moderately depressed people and divided them into 3 groups. The first group exercised, the second took SSRI medication, and the third one exercises and took the medication.
They found that while taking medication reduced the symptoms of depression faster than exercise, after 16 weeks there were no noticeable differences between the groups. After 10 months, members of the group who only exercised shown significantly lower depression rate than the members of the other two groups.
Furthermore, a 2004 study compared psychotherapy with running. Participants were randomly assigned to run for 20 minutes 3 times a week for 10 weeks, attend a 60-minute therapy session once every week, or both. All participants showed decreased depression levels with the positive results lasting at the 4-month follow-up.
Finally, everyone who experiences episodes of depression, or struggles with anxiety, or other mental health problems, should try running as a cure since it could be the best way to deal with them. It benefits the mind, body, and soul.