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How to Relieve Stress With Running

Updated on June 30, 2012
Running can be a great way to relieve stress
Running can be a great way to relieve stress | Source

Running and Stress

Many people use running as a means to relieve stress in their lives. After a long day at work, during a difficult time in their life or just as a daily routine millions find solace in their run. Why does running help with stress relief and how can you benefit from it? Is it really as simple as getting out the door and getting your feet moving? Well, there area a few reasons that running works as a means of stress relief.

Endorphins and Running

The act of running can help to aid stress relief in two very distinct ways, physically and mentally. Running releases endorphins from your pituitary gland into your bloodstream, which will make you feel energized and motivated. The release of endorphins not only makes you get a 'runners high' during the run, but the feeling will last throughout the day, and is a great meats of stress relief. Other forms of exercise also release endorphins, but running is the physical activity that releases the most into your body.

The best scenarios for the body to release a significant amount of endorphins, are during long, continuous, moderate to high intensity runs that use up glycogen stores of your muscles. In short, if you really want endorphin release you have to run long distances at a decent (not comfortable) pace. The rush of endorphins during a run is unmistakable, and the energized feeling really does change your day. A great long run in the morning can really help you deal with serious stress during the day, just as a long run in the evening can make the stress of life seem a bit less pressing.

Choosing the right route can really aid in relieving stress while running
Choosing the right route can really aid in relieving stress while running | Source

Running as Meditation

Running can also relieve stress when it is used as a form of active meditation. Getting out for a run enables us to confront our thoughts in a distraction free environment. The constant beat of your heart and the rhythmic sound of your feet on the road can transport a runner into a world where nothing exists outside of the run. This form of meditation is why many people feel a need to run every day. The time we are able to spend away from television, radio, Internet and cell phones is often exactly what we need to shift our focus entirely onto one subject.

When running to find some solace or a place to be alone with your thoughts it is best to look for routes that are out of the way, easy to follow and where you know that there is as little interaction with the human aspect as possible. Busy streets, intersections, highways, and really any busy bike or running path is going to provide a constant stream of distractions which will keep you from fully investing in your own thoughts. Makes sure you have a way to circumvent these distractions during your run.

Try not tot get bogged down by your time or the amount of miles if you are out to for a thinking session. Just let the run come to you naturally, and relax. Don't push the pace to hard, or let it sag to a slow jog. You want your body physically occupied but not engaged to the point where you need to exercise mental prowess just to push yourself on. This type of run differs greatly from those used for endorphin release which require a more serious effort. Try to keep a constant pace once you settle in, as with meditation focus on controlling your breathing, in a constant pattern to relax and let your mind go blank so you can then focus it on whatever is stressing you.

Try running a route with physical landscape characteristics that will cause you to stop and take in a moment of natural beauty or awe. Such moments can ground us in our thinking and help change a tired perspective, by stirring up deep emotional connections in our body.Feeling connected to the world around you will keep you grounded and able to focus on what is important to you.

Concerns When Running for Stress Relief

There are actually some dangers associated with running as a means of stress relief. Often when we are stressed there are times of little sleep, or poor nutrition due to loss of appetite. Stress can also make you physically tired which when combined with sleeplessness or loss of appetite can be a dangerous combination.

This means that one should take an honest look at their body before they choose to run during a stressful time. Pushing yourself when you are tired or not taking care of your health can make running have an adverse affect on your body. It can lead to injury as tired runners sacrifice form and coordination to complete a run. So when running to relieve stress be smart and focus on what is important first which is your health and happiness. Trying to solve all your problems through exercise will only lead to an imbalance, and the opposite effect of what you desire.


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    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

      I don't run, but I use an elliptical- religiously! I've become rather dependent on that exercise to release stress and space out (or focus and get work done). I love how powerful exercise can be when it comes to boosting one's mood and blowing off tension. Awesome Hub!

    • krsharp05 profile image

      Kristi Sharp 5 years ago from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota.

      Useful information. I like the idea of running for meditation purposes because it will allow me to run at my own pace - the 16 minute mile :). I am a former runner but I can no longer run due to knee surgery and I miss the stress relieving effects. Nicely done. -K

    • profile image

      ChloeHibb 5 years ago

      I also go running to relieve stress! And running outdoors is much more relaxing than running on a treadmill. Thanks for the informative hub and getting the running word out!