Running is as good as a therapy session for mental health and wellbeing

In fitness

A study by Germany’s University of Hospital Bonn has found running can help with processing emotions.

The myriad mental health benefits of running have been well documented in journals and studies alike. A little more anecdotal, however, is the power that pounding the pavement seems to have on clearing your head and unknotting any tangled emotions you might have residing in your head.

Here to confirm this phenomenon as legitimate is new research undertaken by the University of Hospital Bonn in Germany. The team of researchers discovered that running has the ability to activate the brain networks that control the processing of emotions.

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How it all works

Published in the Brain Plasticity journal, the study used resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging on 25 participants to discover how their brain connectivity changed after running or walking on a treadmill.

Participants were also made to complete the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS), a questionnaire designed to examine their pre- and post-workout mood.

“PANAS revealed a significant increase in positive mood after both exercise conditions. Significant effects were observed between conditions in the right affective and reward network (ARN), the right fronto-parietal network (FPN) and the sensorimotor network (SMN),” the study’s authors wrote.

Okay, if that science-speak makes zero sense to you (same), basically it means that while both walking and running saw participants’ moods increase, the two exercises stimulated different areas of the brain. Walking activated “cognitive control and attention”, while running activated the brain networks associated with processing emotions.

Explains the problem-solving, perspective-bringing effects of a good jog, doesn’t it? Therapy-like benefits aside, a 2019 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found running – at any pace or ability – can reduce your risk of early death.

Worth tying up your laces for, right?

This article originally appeared on, and is republished here with permission.

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