With as many as 1 in 4 people affected in the UK (mind.org.uk), the problem of mental illness is a very real and widespread social issue. The benefits of exercise are well documented but can running help depression and play a part in the fight against the effects of anxiety?
Of course, anyone who suspects that they are suffering from mental illness should seek professional help immediately. However, today’s featured runner is Kara (or @theslimmingrunner); someone who can testify to the benefits of running.
She went from 20 stone to being a fully paid up runner with 4 completed marathons under her belt. True inspiration, on top of that she has decided to use her running to help give back.
Getting Started Running
People start running for many different reasons, health, mental health, stress relief, to socialise, to set a goal. Kara had very personal reasons to start down the running path.
I started running 5 years ago. I’d become overweight and struggled with depression and anxiety and just wanted to try something to help with all my “problems”.
Of course, it’s one thing starting a new sport or activity, but another thing to keep it up.
One common problem is people do too much too soon- and end up burning out or getting injured. Today’s featured runner explained that it’s best to gently ease your way into running.
It was hard, I managed around 5 minutes of a really slow jog and back then on my 20 stone body hurt. But I decided to stick with it. Slowly I fell in love with the feeling of accomplishment and I couldn’t wait to get a run done….
So even if it’s not love at first sight (or run!:-)), it doesn’t mean that running isn’t for you. These things take time, especially if running is completely alien to you. Give your body a chance to adjust to the biomechanics of running.
But it’s definitely worth it!
Can Running Help With Depression and Anxiety?
There’s no one treatment that can cure such serious conditions as depression but running can sometimes play a part in helping someone live a happier and more fulfilling life. And this can lead to benefits.
Kara: …….and as I ran my diet changed and I ate healthier. I was happy – something I hadn’t been in along time.Fast forward 5 years and I still suffer with mental illness but it’s so much more controlled.
Glenn Geher, Professor and Chair of Psychology at the State University of New York at New Paltz, is one expert who backs this view. “running is famously associated with the release of endorphins in the brain, which provide natural uplifts in mood.”
No doubt adopting the diet of a runner only adds to this healthier life style.
Running for Charity
For people suffering from mental health issues, it can seem like you’re all alone. But there are some fantastic organisations out there just waiting to help. Which group does Kara feel has helped her most?…..
that’s down to mind – the mental health charity. They help so many people like me and this is why I’m running for them – I want to help others who like me suffered for so long. They helped me realize it was ok to not feel ok!
What a great mantra: it’s ok to not feel ok.
And Kara has been showing that when it comes to showing gratitude, action speaks louder than words. This is the main motivation behind her charity work for MIND in the UK. She’ll be joining the Royal Parks Half Marathon (good luck with that)
A great and very personally driven charity cause. There are so many charity organisations out there, it can be an absolute nightmare picking the right one to support. And our penultimate question to Kara was about this very topic:
If anyone wants to run for charity I would suggest picking one that’s close to your heart. We all have different motivations and you need to find out what that motivation it. Have you had help from a charity? Have you or a family member needed treatment? This is a really lovely way of making a difference and saying thanks to the charity that’s helped you.
So picking the right cause to follow means following your heart! (make sure you do your due diligence before you commit though!)
I want to start running but don’t know how..
Of course getting out there running in the first place can be a bit of a catch 22 thing.
The question can running help depression is irrelevant if your mental and emotional barriers are holding you back from even getting started. Today’s featured runner has some really cool advice about mindset when it comes to running.
If I had to give one tip to someone just starting up it would be not to compare yourself with others. So many people contact me and say they can’t run as far as I do or as fast and I always tell them “I am not your competition, you are your own competitor, you only have to chase your own dreams”
So there you have it: chase your own dream!
Thanks so much to Kara Boaks for taking time to speak to us. If you find this post on can running help depression and anxiety useful please drop your tips or comments below. And feel free to pass it on to anyone who you think might find it useful.