Does Running Help with Better Mental Health

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13/01/2013 at 18:50

"Someone who is depressed cant run"


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!


13/01/2013 at 21:03
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.

13/01/2013 at 21:13

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!! 

13/01/2013 at 21:18

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!)

15/01/2013 at 16:19

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

15/01/2013 at 16:45

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. 

15/01/2013 at 17:25

Thank you!

15/01/2013 at 21:16

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.

15/01/2013 at 21:28

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


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.

15/01/2013 at 21:31

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  

15/01/2013 at 22:29

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.

15/01/2013 at 23:09

Running is my salvation from depression. At my absolute depths, when I couldn't concentrate long enough or find the motivation to even get dressed or decide what  to wear, I found I could put running stuff on quite easily. No zips, didn't have to match etc.  It might take me an hour to get out of the door after that but a slow run cleared my head, and meant I had  shower afterwards. That got me dressed and going for the rest of the day. I ran every morning for 2 months when I was off work sick. 15 minutes to begin with then built up to 40 minutes. It was almost literally a life saver. I couldn't cycle because I couldn't concentrate long enough to manage the roads and I couldn't swim because I didn't have the energy to get as far as the pool. The simplicity of running was perfect. 

Running is still my best therapy. I run at lunchtimes at work but lately its been hard to get out there with the cold weather, and I'm noticing it. Must run tommorow. Pace doesn't matter, time is what counts. 


Edited: 15/01/2013 at 23:13

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