Why Running Can Double as Therapy

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The relieved, accomplished, prideful, elated feeling you receive from a run is no coincidence. Studies have shown that exercise lowers anxiety, depression and stress.

Sometimes motivation doesn’t always correlate positively to the level of satisfaction resulting from it. Some people are less motivated than others, and find that getting up to go for a run is more consuming than the run itself. Yet, running as a form a therapy will squash your need for a full time shrink.

According to an article from Runner’s World, when you exercise neurotransmitters are stimulated to release serotonin, dopamine and epinephrine. This means an increased mood and reduced depression and anxiety.

Those who hate running don’t need to find a passion in running or run a marathon to benefit. Finding a running group, a scenic trail or something that will make running more enjoyable can also be therapeutic. Throwing yourself out of your normal routine and into something that excites you, while your body naturally releases endorphins is twice as beneficial.

“Getting out and talking with others while you run or walk can help change your thoughts and give you a different perspective on how you choose to deal with anger, grief, or trauma,” Austin Gontang, Ph.D., said.

“For every bout of exercise you engage in, you get some relief and distraction from your troubles,” said Keith Johnsgard, Ph.D. Johnsgard wrote Conquering Depression and Anxiety Through Exercise. “With just 20 to 30 minutes of vigorous exercise you get five or six hours of lasting effects–reducing anxiety, anger, fatigue, and other negative emotions.”

Think about it: running every single day helps to reduce your daily stress by about a quarter each day. Keep it going and the effects will only last longer.

Dr. Gontang said, “Being outside, we realize life is a lot bigger than our problems. All the visual, aural and olfactory experiences outdoors help you to remember that you are experiencing life. It brings you to the present.”

Taking some time to run and clear your thoughts will help decrease anxiety and depression over long periods of time. If you’re a beginning runner, start fast walking on the treadmill or elliptical then work your way up to half a mile, a mile and so on. Don’t put pressure on yourself to run half a mile or have the best run of your life each time you run. Pressure decreases motivation.

Even doctors suggest their patients take up an activity such as running. Start healing one step at a time.

Do you like running?

Photo: Thinkstock


  1. Exercise in general is therapy for me. This is why I do it every morning. If I didn’t work out, I would be far more stress, angry, irritable, etc. and no one wants to see me like that, ha! Exercise gives me a focus and I adore it!


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