Does Running Help with Better Mental Health

Hi! I have posted on here, mainly about my awful shin splints, which i have to say are behaving at the moment lol.

but i am trying to write a presentation on my one passion - running - and how i think it helps depression.  I know i run and as i run i think and i get my best thoughts when i run and after a run i feel awesome.  I know when i have been down or life has been tough running has helped.  no one other than runners will understand what i am blabbing on about, but i thought i would turn to the wise runners of runners world to give me their views (if they don't mind) or any great science stories they know to help me stand up and give a talk for 30 mins....by the way i can talk the hind legs off a donkey, but standing up on my own terrifies me more than doing london in 2010! lol thank you soooo much...jane x

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Comments

  • It helps me. My depression is getting worse when I don't run. I have had a 2 week break due to ankle sprain (just before christmas) and come boxing day I thought I could kill, gym was shut and pouring outside so could not bike and felt very frustrated. When I run I think I can take more stress in other situations and it is my release. Hopefuly running will prevent me from taking medication in the future or so I am hoping.

  • Someone who is depressed cant run, what's your background and why r u writing it? Sounds like spam to me, I apologise if I'm wrong image
  • yes martin this isnt spam, im writing it for college. i thought this would be a good place to start. i know myself when im down, i pound the pavement and wanted to see if anyone felt the same. sad u thought it was spam.
  • RicFRicF ✭✭✭

    Already in these replies we have confusion over what depression and its symptoms actually are.

    Depression is usually about lack of motivation, of wanting to do anything in circumstances where normally the individual would be active.

    Too many think its about being really, really upset and just plain miserable.

    A chemically induced apathy prevails. MB's right, to a certain extent.

    A depressed runner will have to force themselves out the door to go training. And after no more than 10 mins will return home instead of doing the 10 miles.

     

  • thank you for your reply. however i do believe that depressed people can run, running becomes the only thing that lifts them. some of mythinking comes from personal experience and from friendships. its good to hear what others think.
  • I have to say, that 'depressed people can't run' shows a complete misunderstanding of depression in both its chronic and acute forms. My opinion is that running can contribute in a positive and negative way. The positive benefits are often discussed and commented on. For the negatives, as an example, a depressed person runs for 2 or 3 hours. They can spend that run avoiding any external/social contact (classic depressive behaviour), battling an internal dialogue of negative thoughts, get home and then beat themselves up over how crap they ran as part of their self esteem issues, and basically not enjoyed the run. And the they repeat that cycle. Yet there is some form of motivation/drive to continue running, working etc. and not just lie in bed all days in a "woe is me" 1970s view of depression.
  • thank you for your reply. yes i agree it isnt as straightforward as a yes it helps no it doesnt. i agree totally with the solitary points an also with but they continue to run. i know when i was in a bad place my running time and the high i felt whilst running really helped and yet idid beat myself up when it went wrong. but what about the belonging we feel as part of a running community? that surely is a positive?
  • Jane, have you looked at this thread? Seems like a good collection of people to give you examples from their experience:

    http://www.runnersworld.co.uk/forum/health--injury/mental-illness-and-running/175876.html

  • Ronnie O'Sullivan (snooker player) has quite famously battled depression through running. Check the BBC article here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7240545.stm

  • You've got the other side to this which is that running helps your body stablise/normalise it's chemical systems, as does all excersise.

    Since a chemical imbalance is linked to depression and meny other mental health issues , most recommend some form of excersise as a way to address this.

    As well as the benefits of being outside in the fresh air and having time to clear you head as it were. It's also harder to get into a worry/over thinking cycle when you are exercising so it helps you make more rational decisions.

    If you're someone who benefits from assigning a worry time, choosing your worry time to match your exercise time is doubly good as you can stop worrying the rest of the time and because of the physical exertion you can't worry as much in your worry time and you actually make better decisions in that worry time.

    As ever though it doesn't work for everyone.

  • thank you so much for posting the links i will certainly read through them later when i have time.  also thank you for all your views, pos and neg as this helps me present my half hour presentation.  from my personal experience i agree with all the pos comments as it helped me get through a difficult time in my life.  i hope many more will comment as it is an interesting topic amongst a group of people who have differing views in a common interest. jane image

  • thank you for your reply. yes i agree it isnt as straightforward as a yes it helps no it doesnt. i agree totally with the solitary points an also with but they continue to run. i know when i was in a bad place my running time and the high i felt whilst running really helped and yet idid beat myself up when it went wrong. but what about the belonging we feel as part of a running community? that surely is a positive?
  • thank you so much for posting the links i will certainly read through them later when i have time.  also thank you for all your views, pos and neg as this helps me present my half hour presentation.  from my personal experience i agree with all the pos comments as it helped me get through a difficult time in my life.  i hope many more will comment as it is an interesting topic amongst a group of people who have differing views in a common interest. jane image

  • ClagClag ✭✭✭
    Hi Jane,



    Interesting topic for your presentation. In my experience running most definitely has a positive impact on mental health and I know that my GP would agree with that.



    In 2009 I wen through a very stressful time at work and in combination with a lot of stuff happening personally that year, I ended up signed off with clinical depression and being prescribed anti-depressants. I stopped going out running as I had horrendous guilt - if I was fit to go out running I should be fit to go to work, but I wasn't. My main fear was that I'd be seen by colleagues or work associates.



    In the end, I was only signed off for 3 weeks (followed by 2 weeks holiday) and it was thanks to from my running buddies that I did get back out. My GP had suggested going out for walks at least, a walk a few times a day. Again, the fear of being spotted made this difficult. Then a colleague that I was close to came to visit and made me realise that if I wasn't fit to meet people socially I most certainly wasn't fit for work (I teach).



    That gave me the impetus to go out of the house without guilt, initially to walk round the block, then for trips to the supermarket. My friend persuaded me to join her for a weekend run, and I did of course bump into a colleague! I think the fact that her kindness had tears silently streaming down my face would have reassured her I wasn't skiving! She was the soul of discretion and I never heard anything more about it.



    I took my time and started getting out more. My GP was delighted when I went back to work and shortly after decided to sign up for a marathon - my rationale being that I would have to make time for me & my training rather than focusing solely on work and getting dragged down.



    I continued to run, stopped the medication after the marathon and felt well for a while. I ended up running another 2 marathons that year. Then I had a dip, was diagnosed with anxiety and ended up on medication for another year. Interestingly enough, although I struggled with many things at this time, such as going on crowded trains, busy places or flying, one thing I could still cope with was running races and this was a good confidence builder.



    Finally, nearly a year ago I managed to come off the meds completely. I have found running to be a saviour in so many ways. I've got good friends through running and they've been very supportive of me. I've also had great support from someone on the RW forum who has had similar experiences and has been an e-mail buddy, allowing me to share things that I wouldn't share with friends and providing support and encouragement.



    I now use my running both as a social thing and almost as a form of meditation. If I've had a bad day, I'll run and think things through, or just run to think of nothing. It makes me feel good and I'm certain keeps me healthy, both physically and mentally.



    Hope this all makes sense - any questions, just ask! Good luck!
  • thank you for your reply. yes i agree it isnt as straightforward as a yes it helps no it doesnt. i agree totally with the solitary points an also with but they continue to run. i know when i was in a bad place my running time and the high i felt whilst running really helped and yet idid beat myself up when it went wrong. but what about the belonging we feel as part of a running community? that surely is a positive?
  • hi clag. wow what a story and thank you for having the courage to share it. ive just stumbled out of bed and i wanted to check here and i found your reply. just wanted to say well done for overcoming so much. im sure i wi have questions once i start collating everything so yes if you dont mind i may message you. just thank u so much for being so open. jane
  • ClagClag ✭✭✭
    No bother - feel free Jane. image
  • I get bouts of depression and running 'keeps the dogs away'.

  • It does help, but as said above I think it can have both positive and negative effects.

    I have had depression for a number of years and without doubt running and exercise has helped. It lets me loose myself, takes me mind off things, and gives me something to focus on and look forward to. Also the sense of achievement really helps. I've also found running has helped more than swimming. I was a competitive swimmer for a long time, swimming about 8 sessions a week, but only when I got into running did it really help with my mood (I think because it was for me - no coach, I could just run as I liked and had control over it).

    On the other hand it can have negative effects. I soon started running too much (probably as an escape). This then developed into somewhat of an addiction, which coupled with eating problems became a full blown eating disorder(exercising for like 6 hours a day and not eating much...), So yeah, it can be bad as very easily becomes the only way to escape and this makes it addictive.

    Nevertheless, I love running and it has helped so much. I have to make sure I don't over train, and don't depend too much on it, but I really believe it has been the best treatment for me - so much so I feel I m definitely on the road to recovery!

  • "Someone who is depressed cant run"

    Cobblers!

    I bloody do - and I turn that depression out as anger that powers my legs.  After a couple of miles, when my body and breathing are in rythmn the clouds start to lift.

    I felt really good when training for my first marathon year before last - then I found the tapering was stressful - I missed running (I'd not taper as much as suggested next time)   I then injured my foot and was out of running for a few months. Now I'm back to running I can tell your that it's the best way to kick the black dog out!

     

  • runwiththewind wrote (see)

    On the other hand it can have negative effects. I soon started running too much (probably as an escape). This then developed into somewhat of an addiction, which coupled with eating problems became a full blown eating disorder(exercising for like 6 hours a day and not eating much...), So yeah, it can be bad as very easily becomes the only way to escape and this makes it addictive.

    Weirdly, running worked the other way for me.  I started running because I had an eating disorder, and ended up really ill.  My dad eventually let me jog around the block because I was so miserable not being allowed to even walk anywhere, and it made me feel happy to be alive (at the time I couldn't even remember ever having been happy).  I've struggled with an eating disorder for several years now, but I love running so much that it's helping me eat.  Signing up for a marathon was probably the best thing I could have done - it's given me a goal to aim towards that doesn't involve weight loss, and I know I have to fuel long runs properly.  Two months ago, I only ate vegetables.  This morning, I had a bowl of porridge (admittedly a small one, but I actually ate stodge).  It might sound silly to most people, but it's a life-changingly huge deal for me.

    I don't think running is a cure-all solution for depression, for reasons that others have already mentioned, but I do think it's a really important aspect of coping with mental health problems.  Although there are potential risks - exercise addiction, injury, beating yourself up for not doing well enough - the general feeling of improved health, and the opportunity to spend a little time away from whatever problems are contributing to the depression, have to be an improvement to hiding away inside and thinking that you don't deserve to be seen.

  • daisyjess - that's brilliant. having a goal will really help! yeah, i think running probably spurred on a problem I already had, but now it does seem to help me to focus and remind myself to eat, and so although it made my eating disorder much worse, it has helped in the recovery process in the opposite way. Good luck though! stick with it and you will recover. eating disorders are such a horrible thing, and although i do think they stay with you in some shape or form for the rest of your life, you really can recover. i no longer starve myself, am a healthy weight and although i do have issues with my body, that's fairly normal for most women! you'll get there. it's a long road but good luck!! 

  • Thanks runwiththewind!  And congrats on recovering - it's such a hard thing to move beyond, but it must be so good to look back and realise how far you've come (literally!)

  • i am really overwhelmed in how open everyone has been.  Thank you so much.  I am 41 and i had anorexia when i was 18.  I still have my list of good foods and bad foods but i say to myself now well janey if you don't eat you cannot run and if you cannot run you will get the hump!! I don't want to sound cheesy but these personal stories really helped....jane x

  • jane - you are very welcome to join us on the Mental Health and Running thread. We have a really supportive group and we really encourage each other to get out and run. 

  • jane - that is exactly what i do when I feel I might start to slip. Just tell myself, well, if I starve myself I can hardly go out and run can I...and then I'll just feel miserable. Plus the running itself helps as makes me not worry so much about what I eat after as I know I've burned a lot off.

  • I think it depends.  I have had bouts of very mild depression since I was a teenager - the worst bout being when I was last pregnant - after I had my daughter I took up running and I haven't had any bouts since (10 years). However I do tend to overtrain and this has contributed to anxiety disorder ( I suspect) so now training by HR to stop the overtraining.

     

    When really unwell I couldn't run - as I could barely function - I would go out for a run (it was winter so very dark) and find myself mildly hallucinating (this was partly how my anxiety manifested) - in this circumstance running made it worse as it gave me too much time to think.  Once I found a counsellor I started to heal - very slowly - but did end up at a psychiatrist at the behest of my GP.  By this time I was running a little but was a long way from mental health - the psychiatrist said 'oh well if you are running then you aren't depressed'..... so I left and didn't go back. I had a marathon to train for so I did that - and then the race a few months later - and even though I was still a bit shaky - having a goal helped.  Once the race was over I did find myself relapsing a little so found another goal image

     

    So, as long as I don't train too hard, running helps keep me calm.  I certainly haven't been properly depressed in a long time but whether that's because things had shifted more into anxiety after my children were born or whether it's because running helped, I don't know.

  • I've had most of 2012 out of running through sickness - in October i had a tumour out of my lung - two weeks after i had norovirus for 9 days - then at xmas i had heavy infection on chest and head - leaving me weak

    i returned to my training ( with Phil & his wheelchair ) last Sunday gone

    with my severe depresiion through my disabled son and wife, and then my own health problems - had i not had my running, i cannot begin to image what id have done  

  • For me, running can help with depression but it all depends on whether it's going well or not.  Times when I'm running do seem to be few and far between these days.  Ultimately though it's about setting goals in my life which give me a reason to get out of bed everyday - which otherwise, I'd much rather not do.  My personal goal is to run a half marathon this year.  It feels like a huge challenge - but I would derive a major confidence boost if I can achieve it.

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