It’s a given that running has huge physical benefits. The science supports the common sense, that running is good for your body. It can help strengthen bones, tone and develop muscles, improve cardiovascular health and help to burn calories and maintain a healthy weight.
But what is often overlooked, but not to be underestimated, is the mental benefits that running offers to participants. This week saw World Mental Health Day (Tuesday 10 October) take place and running deserves a mention as an effective method of ensuring mental wellbeing.
Last year England Athletics launched a Mental Health Ambassador programme where over 100 volunteers use running as a therapy. Their #runandtalk campaign has been used to encourage the improvement of mental health across England through running.
It is backed by science, the NHS Choices website lists exercise alongside cognitive behavioural therapy and counselling as a proven and effective substitute for anti-depressants.
Furthermore, there are academic studies that have found that running improves self-esteem, protects the brain from ageing and can sharpen the memory among many mental benefits.
My own running hero is a guy who lives just up the road from me. No, Usain Bolt hasn’t relocated to Dartmoor since retirement. It’s a humble guy called Kevin Carr. He holds the world record for a solo circumnavigation of the world on foot. He suffered depression and even had a failed suicide attempt in his 20s.
Through running he found his calling and his mental balance.
For me, it has never been that extreme. But running is a solace, a time to process. If ever I have an issue that is giving me some concern and causing some strain, a run always helps me get it in perspective. Yes, running is great for the body, but equally important for the mind too.