This weekend is the London Marathon and we at MQ are getting very excited for a number of reasons. Not only are there a number of runners raising money for vital mental health research (Which you can too in the future) but also we’re excited because running is an excellent way to relieve stress and anxiety.
Medical research has shown that running and other forms of exercise can have numerous benefits for mental health, reducing anxiety, depression and sensitivity to stress. Since this year’s marathon is also during Stress Awareness Month how could we resist not showing you how running can help your mental health?
Research has shown that people living with severe mental illness often have poorer physical health than the general population. Those of us with mental illness are more likely to have multiple physical health conditions as well, increasing the complexity of our lifestyles.
But this is not inevitable, and looking after our physical health can not only improve our mental health but also prevent complications that could shorten lives.
In an article earlier this year, we’ve shown you how challenging yourself can truly improve your mental well-being and help tackle mental health conditions and addictions. But why is running good for mental health?
When you run, your brain releases endorphins, which are natural chemicals that improve mood and reduce pain. Endorphins are often referred to as the “feel-good” chemicals because they can produce a sense of euphoria and well-being. This is why runners often report feeling a “runner’s high” after a long run.
Running can reduce addiction cravings, including drug and alcohol addictions. In addition to this runners brain have been proven to show more connectivity to aid planning and decision making, evidence shows running helps promote new neurons in the area of the brain connected to memory, and another study found running at a younger age helps promote better memory later in life.
Running can also help reduce the levels of cortisol, which is a hormone that is released in response to stress. High levels of cortisol can contribute to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. By reducing cortisol levels, running can help alleviate the symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Exercise may even also help prevent mental illness and mental disorders in young people.
Additionally, running can help improve sleep quality, which is important for overall mental health. Studies have shown that regular exercise can help people fall asleep faster and enjoy deeper, more restful sleep.
Research has also shown that running can help improve cognitive function, including memory, attention, and concentration. This can be particularly beneficial for people who experience stress-related cognitive difficulties.
Finally, running provides a sense of accomplishment and empowerment, which can help boost self-esteem and confidence. This can be especially helpful for people who struggle with anxiety or depression.
If you are looking for a natural way to manage stress and improve your mental health, running is an excellent option to consider.
So looking at all this evidence, why not lace up your running shoes today? Running not for you? Walking, cycling or wheelchair sports are great alternatives. And if you’d like to raise money for MQ we’d love to hear from you!
Are you inspired and wanting to train for next year’s marathon? Training for any race requires dedication, time, and effort yet all of this will bring huge rewards. Here are some general guidelines on how to train for a marathon:
- Build a base: Before starting a marathon training program, it’s important to have a base level of fitness. This means you should be able to comfortably run at least 3-5 miles several times a week for a few weeks.
- Set a goal: Decide on a realistic goal for your marathon, such as finishing the race or achieving a specific time. This will help guide your training program.
- Create a training plan: A typical marathon training program lasts around 16-20 weeks and includes several days of running, cross-training, and rest. You can find training plans online or work with a coach to create a personalized plan.
- Gradually increase mileage: Your training plan should gradually increase your mileage to build endurance. It’s important to avoid increasing your mileage too quickly, which can increase your risk of injury.
- Incorporate speed work: To improve your running pace, include speed work such as intervals, tempo runs, and hill repeats in your training plan.
- Cross-train: Cross-training can help prevent injury and improve overall fitness. Activities such as cycling, swimming, and strength training can be incorporated into your training plan.
- Rest and recovery: Rest and recovery days are crucial for preventing injury and allowing your body to adapt to training. Make sure to include rest days in your training plan.
- Fuel your body: Proper nutrition is essential for marathon training. Make sure to eat a balanced diet with adequate carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats to fuel your runs and aid in recovery.
- Listen to your body: If you experience pain or injury, it’s important to rest and seek medical attention if necessary. Don’t push through pain or injury, as this can lead to more serious problems.
- Taper: In the weeks leading up to the marathon, taper your training to allow your body to rest and recover before race day.
Remember, everyone’s training plan will look different based on their individual fitness level, goals, and schedule. It’s important to listen to your body, be patient, and stick to your training plan to achieve success on marathon day.
And maybe we’ll see you at next year’s marathon or another event, raising money for MQ Mental Health Research.
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