While we know that exercise can help us feel better, it’s less known how running can help people with depression. Research shows that running benefits the brain, including those parts that manage mood. It also appears to reduce symptoms of depression and helps both men and women equally.
How is this possible?
It is not only our muscles that benefit when we run. Our brain benefits as well. Studies show that running creates new cells in an area of the brain called the hippocampus. This part of the brain is often affected by depression. Running also boosts our brain functioning, increasing its size. That’s not all.
When we run, a general state of body excitation occurs. This includes endocrine changes in the brain. Hormonal and physiological changes also happen throughout the body. These changes favour positive mood changes.
The main protagonist is endorphins. This is a hormone produced by the pituitary responsible for positive feelings. When we run our body releases more endorphins. Research shows that any physical exercise results in the production of endorphins. But, since running is aerobic, the sensation of endorphin-related well-being is stronger. The longer we exercise, the more our bodies produce endorphins. This results in more energy.
Running not only reduces depression. For those of us who run often, the benefits include a more stable mood over time. It helps us experience positive emotions like happiness and joy. It also sheds away feelings of discouragement and apathy.
If you have depression, it may be reassuring to know that running can help counter negative feelings. I urge you to give running a try and see if it makes you feel better.
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