How Running Benefits Mental Health – I Beat My Demons, You Can To

I’ve touched a little bit on my background with mental health in the previous posts.

This is a pretty important subject for me, I struggle on and off for a long time to find balance in my life.

And running played a big part in that for me.

I was diagnosed with a form of Bipolar called cyclothymic disorder when I was in my late teens.

A time in life when everything was already confusing enough.

A lot of different things played their part in the episodes of depression I dealt with on and off for a long time.

And likewise, a lot of things played a part in me eventually finding balance and clarity in my life.

But the biggest thing that set me back on the right track was exercise and more importantly running, to begin with.

I’ve always been a reasonably good runner, most of the games we played as children involved running.

All of the sports I tried involved running. I can honestly say I have always enjoyed running.

I didn’t really understand how much of an impact running could have on life until later on though.

Once the psychologist I was seeing suggested I do more exercise to help release more endorphins. The first thing I tried was running.

And like the great Forrest Gump said. When I was running, I was running! I did not mess around, I went at it whole hog.

I would run every day if I could. (This approach eventually had to change as I learned about things like resting and stretching).

But it was those long stretches of time spent deep in thought, reflecting, getting to know me again and of course releasing endorphins that started to see my back down a road to a semi-normal life.

So simply put, the biggest benefit of running on mental health for me is, the release of endorphins and honestly spending some time in your thoughts, meditating almost.

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How Much Exercise Is Needed For Mental Health?

The more the better! Within reason.

Most studies show we should all be exercising 30-60 minutes at least 3 times per week.

But I believe most people can get at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 times a week.

Before I go crazy with the recommendations, remember that your body needs to rest to recover.

I have to remind people of this all the time.

We get onto a good thing and we don’t want to miss out.

Once you get that bug and you really start enjoying your exercise it can be hard to have a day off but rest is very important!

On that note, again the more the better.

If you can get a 30-minute workout 5-6 times a week, your mental health will thank you for it.

Going back to my earlier story, how running changed my life.

I would run 6 days a week without fail then I started branching into swimming and cycling as well.

I became so obsessed with the high I would get that I was training 9 times a week!

Wednesday was complete rest.

But I would run most mornings, swim 2-3 times a week and I would cycle.

But this leads to new problems.

I became obsessed with it, with my run times, with my resting heart rate, and even my weight! Which started off a different spiral into depression.

So please heed my warning. 

Get out there and move, you will feel better for it.

But remember why you are doing it.

Don’t let it consume too much space in your mind, learning to unwind afterward is as necessary as stretching.

Can Running Cure Mental Illness?

I’m not a doctor, I’m speaking from personal experience.

Maybe the running wasn’t a cure on its own.

But I’ve been off my medication for almost 8 years.

I’m sure that it was a combination of a few things that got me there.

But running played a big part in that for me.

It would clear my mind, that and the rush of endorphins, the nostalgia of listening to my favorite songs.

All these things took me to a very peaceful place.

The improvements in fitness, the weight loss all these little things started adding up.

But there were other things at play than just the running. I was learning to get better with my finances.

And achieving goals in my work life, I met someone new who brought something new out in me.

But how possible would all those other things have been if I hadn’t laid the foundation with running first?

It doesn’t even have to be running.

That’s just what worked for me.

Maybe boxing will work for you, maybe swimming, maybe weightlifting.

It really doesn’t matter at the end of the day.

But running is pretty easy to get started with.

All you need is a pair of shoes.

Or even walking to start with.

You just need to get up and get started.

So I may not be a medical professional.

I may not have the scientific terms to back up what I’m saying.

But I’ve been there. I was diagnosed with cyclothymic disorder.

One of the 4 forms of bipolar disorder.

And I beat it, it was a process.

But that process started with exercise for me.

It’s not going to be possible for everyone to get off medication, I understand that. But there’s no harm in trying.

Taking less medication is a victory in itself.

Learning to deal with the situation better is a victory.

Talking about running, here’s another article I wrote recently on how important a strong core is for running.

Is Running Good For Heart Health?

Without a doubt.

Just like all forms of cardio running strengthens the cardiovascular system or simply put, your heart and blood and veins and whatnot.

(For all my other nondoctors)

Obviously, there are heart conditions out there that cardio training might have a bad effect on so consult your doctor if you have a heart condition.

But if you are just wanting to improve your general heart health then yes go for a run.

Is It Bad To Run Everyday?

If you keep stretching a rubber band, eventually it will snap.

If you keep driving your car with the check engine light on, eventually something will blow.

Don’t run every day.

Recovery is paramount.

If you let your muscles rest they won’t grow bigger or stronger.

When you perform strenuous exercise your muscles are tearing slightly. 

When you let them rest and give them protein, the protein helps them to rebuild better suited to the task that damaged them.

If they need to be bigger they will grow back bigger.

The same goes for strength, they will grow back stronger.

If you don’t let them recover, those tiny tears will slowly become big tears.

And big tears don’t feel very nice.

And if you let them get big enough you may be forced to sit on the sidelines for quite a while.

Rest and recovery are one of the most important parts of training.

You can probably get away with running most days.

Like I said early, I was running 6 days a week.

And I did that for a long time.

But typically after a big race, you need to rest for a few days before you start training again.

All professional athletes follow a training cycle.

So even the pros are resting.

You’re not going to miss out on progression by taking a day off.

Here’s another article I wrote recently about this topic.

If it wasn’t obvious already I’m pretty passionate about the topics.

And if you’ve come to my post you’ll find some more useful information about mental health and exercise here.