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Running and Mental Health

An Interview with pt Health

I was recently interviewed about running and mental health by pt Health, a “Community Clinic Network with 230 corporate and network¬†clinic locations across Canada.” They offer many services including physical and massage therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care, and mental health services along with occupational therapy and alternative medicine. The company also has specialized programs for more complex conditions including rehabilitation for stroke and cardiac patients as well as sports injuries.

Both subjects are important to me. Running has been life-changing and a huge part of my transformation. And if you’ve read any of my other articles or my about page, you know I have experienced depression and anxiety. I used to be ashamed of those things but finally decided there was nothing to be ashamed about. It’s a part of my history but it doesn’t define me. And the more can talk about mental health (especially for men), the more we can lessen the stigma.

Running has given me a new life. That’s why I started this site and also why I created Runner’s Life on Medium. I wanted to share the impact it has had on me and my physical, emotional, and mental health. And I’m hoping it can help at least one other person who has struggled.

running mental health
Photo by Arek Adeoye on Unsplash

A lot of research already shows that exercise is beneficial regarding many aspects of one’s physical and mental health. But new research is also showing cardiorespiratory fitness (running, biking, swimming, etc.) may reduce the risk of the onset of common mental health disorders, something that has not been looked at in-depth.

According to a recent meta-analysis published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, the authors’ findings included evidence of a dose-response relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) and common mental health issues, mainly depression and anxiety. They found that low CRF is associated with a 47% greater risk of common mental health disorders than high CRF, while medium CRF carries a 23% greater risk.

The authors’ also suggest some preventative strategies to use CRF as a tool to decrease the risk factors of mental health disorders:

“There are also several low-cost methods of improving CRF through social prescribing frameworks, such as organised park runs. These properties make CRF a useful public health tool for reducing the incidence of common mental health disorders at a population-level.”

While they also admit the data is limited, the analysis shows some promise for those who have tried other methods for their mental health and failed. And maybe more important, they suggest more research needs to be done in this area.

I haven’t been able to run recently due to a possible herniated disc so I am experiencing how cardiorespiratory fitness (running) can impact mental health. I have noticed how my mood, my anxiety, and my overall mind and body has been impacted, and not for the better.

The research and studies all confirm what I already know. Running improves me, my mental health, and my life. And while I don’t want to say it has saved me, it has certainly kept me from remaining lost. Running found me when I needed it the most, and I’m grateful for all that it brings to my life.

I know it’s much easier said than done because I’ve been there. But maybe the next time you need a pick-me-up, you go for a run. It just may find you too.

If you want to read the interview, click the link below:

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