Benefits of running stretch beyond physical health


Photo via Flickr (David Ohmer) under Creative Commons license

Man goes on an evening jog. While most individuals run to gain physical strength, running on a regular basis can also improve our mental health and teach us the value of hard work.

Ximena Bejarano, Features co-Editor

Like the majority of middle school-aged children, I used to dread running the mile in gym class every week. While I was never the last person to finish the mile, I hated every second of running. It made me physically sick to my stomach, and my mediocre times served as a reminder that I was far from athletic.

I found pleasure in running for its benefits beyond physical health.”

— Features co-Editor Ximena Bejarano

It wasn’t until I started preparing to play a sport that I began running under my own terms. Because the sport I was interested in involves a decent amount of running, I knew that it was crucial for me to increase my stamina and become faster. After devoting my spare time to hitting the pavement, I gradually became enthusiastic about running—an activity that my eleven-year-old self would have avoided at all costs.

While many people run for obvious reasons, such as losing weight or gaining muscular strength, I found pleasure in running for its benefits beyond physical health. Running has helped shaped me into a better person while providing additional benefits.  

Running teaches the value of hard work

No one becomes an exceptional runner overnight. While some individuals might be natural runners, it still requires serious commitment to improve from one’s current times. Additionally, every runner must possess enough mental toughness to continue moving and ultimately finish the race.

Running on my own time has taught me the importance of discipline and working hard to achieve my goals. Based on my personal experience, improving as a runner is hard without setting up a routine and following it. If I choose not to be physically active for several weeks, for instance, it shows when I attempt to run again. I lose my endurance, and maintaining my pace becomes more difficult.

On the other hand, when I follow my routine, I experience success in the form of greater stamina and faster times. Getting my feet moving every morning became worth it when I found myself being capable of running longer distances without losing my breath. I realized how important it was to leave my comfort zone to experience growth, and I implemented what I learned from running into other aspects of my life.

Running improves mental health

While running itself may be stressful, the feeling of accomplishment after finishing a run is nothing short of amazing. Many people will experience a runner’s high after completing a race or marathon due to their bodies’ release of endorphins, a neurotransmitter that stimulates feelings of joy. Because of their ability to elevate individuals’ moods, endorphins have also been linked to suppressing symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Most people, including myself, also benefit from the stress relief running brings. Running is an excellent way to take a break from the world’s demands and unwind mentally. It can also create mental space for us to reflect on our responsibilities without being distracted by external stimuli.

It is also worth noting that a slower individual can still benefit from the advantages of running. Successfully running a certain distance without stopping can be enough to lift their mood, since it provides them with a feeling of capability that boosts their confidence. Running can also give those experiencing depression and other complications a much needed sense of accomplishment in their daily lives.

While I’m no Olympic athlete, I have benefited from running in notable ways. From improving my speed and endurance over time, running has given me the confidence to throw myself into new situations without fear. It has ultimately taught me that I am capable of accomplishing whatever I put my mind to.