Longer-Term Mood Benefits of Running – There is some evidence that engaging in exercise such as running may help alleviate symptoms of mood and anxiety disorders.7 The 2020 review noted that longer-term running interventions (of up to 20 weeks) were associated with improvements in a range of mental health outcomes. Runners often experienced lower levels of depression and anxiety and greater psychological well-being than non-runners.3
Additionally, a 2016 review noted that lower levels of cardiorespiratory fitness were associated with a greater risk for depression.8 A 2017 study found that exercise improved mood and increased calmness compared to non-exercise, which only increased feelings associated with agitation.9
Another study found that exercise was moderately more effective than no therapy for reducing depressive symptoms. However, the study found that exercise was no more effective than antidepressants.10
Running or jogging is not a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. Additional research is needed to determine its exact impact on the prevention and treatment of psychological conditions. Because depression is characterized by low energy and a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, people with symptoms of depression may find it more difficult to stay motivated to run.
Stress relief is another valuable benefit of running or jogging. Going for a jog might provide short-term stress relief by helping you get your mind off your troubles, but there are longer-lasting benefits as well.
Studies analyzed in the 2020 review compared measures of mental health among runners and non-runners and found that runners had lower stress and greater psychological well-being.3 Other research suggests that sticking to your running regimen during times of stress leads to greater resilience, which can make you more capable of handling the challenges life throws at you.
People who take up running experience improved emotional well-being, relief from tension, depression, aggression, anger, and anxiety, and a boost in self-image and self-confidence, mood, and happiness. However, it’s important to note that not all subjects report significant effects.