The Relationship Between Running and Mental Health

The ‘runner’s high’ is one of the short term mental health benefits of running that improves runner’s moods and gives them a euphoric feeling. According to the article “The Truth Behind ‘Runner’s High’ and Other Mental Benefits of Running,” “Exercise increases the levels of endocannabinoids in the bloodstream, Linden explains. Unlike endorphins, endocannabinoids can move easily through the cellular barrier separating the bloodstream from the brain, where these mood-improving neuromodulators promote short-term psychoactive effects such as reduced anxiety and feelings of calm” (Linden). This shows that even immediately after a run there are mental health benefits that cause runners to feel calmer and have reduced anxiety levels due to the chemicals that running causes the brain to produce. Running can help people to deal with their stress and anxiety in a short period of time, unlike other activities that do not cause the brain to produce endocannabinoids.

Running also has some long-term mental benefits such as causing more blood vessels to grow that feed the brain and potentially causing new brain cells to be produced through neurogenesis (Linden). Because of this, running not only boosts feelings of happiness, but also improves memory and ability to learn (Brennan). People who run experience many of these cognitive benefits, which in turn benefit them mentally. Running acts as an antidepressant, aiding in overcoming stress, anxiety, and depression. Runners don’t just experience a short term post-run mood boost, but also lasting mental health improvement.