Did you know that you could run your way to a beautiful mind?

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Tuesday, 03 November 2015 829 Views 0 Comments
Did you know that you could run your way to a beautiful mind?

By Kiran Mehta

Psychologist Reema Shah elaborates on the beneficial effects of running on mental health and well-being

Almost all forms of exercise are good for the mind. And an intense aerobic activity like running helps relieve stress, fight depression, and so much more. Read on:

1) Tarzan and Jane, the original sprinters: Evolution explains runner’s high, revealed a team of researchers led by University of Arizona’s David Raichlen. To understand the study, let’s go back to the basics: Cave men/women had to walk, jog, or run, as they hunted for game or searched for water. (No microwave meals came to their rescue!)

After a great deal of physical activity, they reached their goal, which was naturally followed by a feeling of euphoria. To use scientific jargon, dopamine was released in the brain giving them a sense of pleasure and accomplishment. Today we have machines to do most of our physical activities. Yet, evolution re-wired our brains such that we still experience runner’s high. Ask any runner who managed to push from 5k to 10k and you’ll realise that running is addictive, because it is mentally rewarding.

2) Beat the blues: Some studies show that running, in combination with medication, is very effective in alleviating long-term depression. This works by enhancing the levels of the chemical ‘norepinephrine’, which aids the brain in responding positively to stress.

In my own clinical practice, I have seen numerous cases of anxiety, stress and depression. I have observed that those clients who maintain a regular exercise/running routine recover faster than those who rely solely on therapy or medication.

3) Run from stress: Living in a civilized world ironically comes with a great deal of stress and strain. Experiments conducted on mice (who like us, are vulnerable to stress), have proved that running prepares our brain to deal with social stress and anxiety. Next time you’re feeling frazzled, run to relax.

4) Sleep tight: Running is a natural cure for insomnia. It can re-boot the body clock, set the circadian rhythm in balance, to help you sleep better.

5) Run outside: Go within: Running helps you tune in to your body’s rhythm and pace. It also helps you develop your own rhythm, especially for a long-distance run. Whether it’s your breathing pattern or the co-ordinated movement of your feet, it is this pacing that helps to conserve energy during a long run. This control over your body is particularly beneficial during times of stress.

6) Be a planner: A runner, especially one who trains long distances, typically starts the run very early, and has to ensure some basics are covered before he sets out. For e.g: deciding on clothing and footwear based on the weather conditions, carrying water, nutritional supplements, etc. Finally, a runner juggles all this with the challenge of ensuring a good sleep. All this makes for an automatic and effortless planner in the long term.

7) Keep calm and keep running: There are easy roads and there are tough roads; a runner learns to negotiate both with skill. Throughout the run, the objective is to reach the finish line, and clock a certain run time. When the chips are down, the runner goes back to the basic rule of sticking it out. So, through running, you acquire the essential life skills of endurance, persistence and patience.

8) Breathe easy: Breath is our life force. While running, the body needs more oxygen to fuel the activity. Running helps the body achieve a good breathing pattern which the body adopts whenever stressed, thereby helping your body and mind deal with the stressor.

9) Free your mind: Running is one our most primitive activities. At a deeper level, it helps us connect to our roots. The physical activity is completely unencumbered and stripped of all human inventions, and therefore running comes with an innate sense of freedom.

10) Feel fab: Running is not an everyday activity for the modern man/woman and hence humans have to learn it. As we begin to master it, even in a small way, it gives a boost to our self esteem and confidence.

11) Brain boost: Running promotes neurogenesis i.e creation of new brain cells. Research has linked neurogenesis to increased levels of concentration, focus, memory recall, and higher creativity levels.

(Reema Shah received a B.A. in Psychology, M.A. in Psychotherapy from the University of Mumbai, and a Diploma in Sports Psychology from the University of Illinois, U.S.A. To know more about her, log on to www.reemashah.net or reach out to her on Reemashah60@gmail.com)


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