Specialists at Nationwide Children’s Hospital Help Us Understand the Mental Benefits of Running and Walking
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and we at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon & ½ Marathon want you to know your BODY can help your MIND!
With the help of our trusted friends at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, we’d like to highlight mental health’s correlation to exercise and make the suggestion that mental benefits provided by a daily run or walk – especially during this pandemic – may be just as important as the physical benefits.
Mental health awareness is extremely important and is an issue we should be addressing as a community now more than ever. Challenges resulting from COVID-19 such as job loss, homeschooling, and inaccessible childcare are all triggers thought to negatively affect many individual’s mental health.
“It’s incredibly important to recognize the impacts that this current situation can have on one’s mental health. As much as we should be focusing on staying physically well, and we should, we should also ensure that we are giving proper care to our mental well-being,” said Allie DePoy, Nationwide Children’s Hospital clinical educator.
We’ve all heard of “runner’s high” as a way to describe feeling happy or relaxed after vigorous exercise. “Moderate exercise can be an excellent coping skill when experiencing intense stress or emotions,” said Gina McDowell, clinical educator for the Big Lots Behavioral Health Services at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Scientifically speaking, the brain is experiencing biochemical reactions, or endorphin release, attributed to this euphoric feeling. According to McDowell, one of the biggest mental health benefits of daily exercise is improved mood. She noted that chemicals released in the brain function similarly to antidepressants. Additionally, regular exercise can greatly help reduce stress levels. Exercise also improves the quality of one’s sleep, leading to feeling better throughout the day.
Sounds good, right?! We’ve all felt that sense of accomplishment after reaching a new PR, or running a half or full marathon for the first time (hopefully ours!).
“Physical activity can have a positive impact on one’s self-esteem, which in turn has a positive impact on one’s mental health,” McDowell explained. “Each person’s body and experience is completely unique. Find the physical activity that works best for you and improve your overall well-being!”
Here’s the thing, friends. If you’re feeling stressed or mentally overwhelmed during this time, know that you are not alone. We are here for you. The central Ohio running community is here for you. And most importantly, the sport of running is and will always be here for you.
Now, who’s ready for a run?