Aside from the physical health benefits of running and other cardiovascular exercise, there are mental health benefits as well. Many runners find that running helps improve their mood and relieve stress, for example, and research supports this belief.1
Running, jogging, and even brisk walking increase blood flow to the brain and release natural mood-elevating compounds. Learn about the relationship between running and mental health and the short- and long-term benefits you reap when you commit to a regular running routine.
In addition to relieving daily stress, running and jogging can have positive influences on your attitude. The rush you feel during a run can lead to a boost in mental well-being or create a general sense of contentment.
Short-Term Mood Benefits of Running – Many runners are familiar with the emotional boost that arises from running known as the “runner’s high.” This sensation triggers feel-good emotions that can elevate your mood and reduce stress.2 And there is considerable evidence to show that running can produce positive mental health benefits in the short term.
An review analysis of 116 studies published in 2020 looked at the relationship between running and mental health. The review found that running improved mood in research subjects who participated in runs of various intensities and lengths, including just a single bout of running.3
For some time, researchers believed that positive feelings occur during running due to the release of endorphins.4 But now it’s understood that endorphins do not pass from the blood into the brain, though they do help prevent the sensation of pain from being felt in the muscles.5
Current research shows that biochemical substances known as endocannabinoids cause the feelings of euphoria commonly associated with a runner’s high. Endocannabinoids are cannabis-like substances that are naturally produced by the body.