Running can boost mental health, poll suggests

Runners reported boosted mental health in a recent survey (credit: Mike Baird)

Runners reported boosted mental health in a recent survey (credit: Mike Baird)

Figures back up doctors' advice regarding exercise and stress

Running can bring about improvements in emotional well-being, newly released research results suggest.

On National Stress Awareness Day, the poll results showed 74% of the 13,200 people questioned by England Athletics (EA) said they felt running was good for their mental well-being.

In an additional survey, run by EA's RunTogether community, 89% said they had increased happiness as a direct result of running with others or in a group.

Dr Averil McClelland,a GP and top veteran runner, explained: “Physical exercise improves a person’s well-being by releasing endorphins, the body’s ‘feel good’ hormones.
Studies show that in mild to moderate depression patients who exercise regularly do as well as those prescribed antidepressant medications or talking therapies.”

Juliet McGrattan, a GP and author of Sorted: The Active Woman's Guide to Health, added: “Energy levels and motivation are low when you are struggling with depression. Exercising and committing to a group can help give you the extra boost to get you going and keep you going.”

The poll also showed that group runners were more likely to be regular runners (62%) when compared to solo runners (51%).

Dr Laurence Church, a consultant who is based at the Priory’s Hospital in Woking, Surrey, said: “I treat an increasing number of people suffering from stress, depression and anxiety. Exercise, often running, can be an important component of recovery from mental health problems, and in maintaining well-being. The power of the social aspect of the RunTogether programme appears to be an important ingredient for many - boosting self-confidence, reducing social isolation and ensuring people keep coming back.”

RunTogether highlights the experience of Diana Postle, who joined one of the initiative's groups in Norwich earlier this year after the loss of her husband to cancer in 2015.

“For three years, I had been going through the hardship of my husband’s illness, death and the aftermath of that,” said 65-year-old Diana. “I felt I needed to break out of the four walls of my house which had become a prison to me, having been thrown into the overwhelming task of clearing the house on my own.

“Running in a group gives me a feeling of being ‘safely enclosed’ with others around me, yet not smothered by people’s focused attention or feeling claustrophobic which can happen in crowded places. The friendships I have made, along with the fun and laughter of the camaraderie, has been incredible medicine. The RunTogether leaders and the group members lift one another up, and cheer us all to being, as well as doing, our best.”