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Benefits of Outdoor Running for Mental Health

Benefits of Outdoor Running for Mental Health

Running outdoors is a great way to improve your mental health. The combination of physical movement and beautiful scenery can help you forget about your problems and relax.

Several studies have shown that outdoor running boosts self-esteem and confidence, reduces stress and enhances sleep quality. Even a short 10-minute jog can significantly improve mood and feelings of pleasantness.

Benefits of Outdoor Running for Mental Health

Stress reduction

The natural environment and physical activity of running combined offer a calming, stress-reducing effect. The sights, sounds and scents of nature can help to soothe the mind, while the physical activity releases endorphins to boost mood and make us feel happier.

Several studies showed that various intensities and lengths of running significantly benefited mental health. Moreover, the benefits were seen in both group and solo running. However, the lack of control groups and diversity in participant demographics was a limitation to the findings.

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Although running won’t cure depression or anxiety, it can help manage these conditions through improving mood, relieving tension and increasing self-confidence, happiness, and outlook. The chemicals released during and after a run also calm the mind and promote healthy sleep patterns, which are essential for good mental health.

In addition, the natural environment of outdoor running can help improve focus and concentration. This may be because running outside requires a lot of attention to the surrounding environment, as opposed to just thinking about your own performance. This is why many runners say that they feel a sense of clarity and a clearer head when they’re outside.

Improved mood

Several studies have found that participants experience positive mood changes through outdoor running. In one study, runners reported increased happiness, better self-image and greater confidence as a result of regular running, while also experiencing relieved depression, aggression and stress.

Mood improvement was also a common finding in other studies. For example, in a study that examined the effects of park and urban running, the results showed that total mood disturbance decreased following a 1-hour run in both environments. Another study found that a short park jog increased self-esteem and reduced stress. Finally, a study from the University of Colorado-Boulder found that people who ran or walked outdoors were able to fall asleep faster and sleep better at night.

In a cross-sectional study of runners, 96% of respondents indicated that they experienced emotional well-being benefits from regular running. Specifically, they reported feeling relief of tension, a happier outlook and more energy and satisfaction in family life. Similarly, the same study found that long-term runners reported lower levels of self-reported anxiety and depression as compared to a nonpsychiatric normative sample.

Enhanced self-esteem and confidence

Enhanced self-esteem and confidence are important aspects of mental health, and outdoor running can help to improve both. When you go for a run, the endorphins that are released during and after your workout can help improve your mood and make you feel more confident and positive about yourself. This can also increase your self-esteem and confidence in other areas of your life, including work and social interactions.

Overall, studies consistently show that acute bouts of running of various lengths and intensities result in improved markers of a range of mental health outcomes. However, a lack of inactive control groups and diversity in participant demographics limits the validity of these findings.

In a scoping review, 96% of runners reported that they noticed emotional/mental benefits from running, with most reporting increased happiness, better outlook and feelings of contentment. Other benefits include a relief of tension, more positive self-image, greater self-confidence and lower levels of aggression, depression and anxiety. One study found that a marathon training program increased participants’ perceived self-sufficiency over the course of the program.

Increased relaxation and better sleep quality

There is a large body of research on the positive effects of running, at varying intensities, on mental health outcomes. Generally, studies have found that runners report increased emotional well-being, relief of tension, improved self-image and confidence, greater mood stability, less aggression or anger, and better sleep quality.

In addition to the obvious physical benefits, outdoor running provides new experiences that can increase motivation and interest. Taking your run outdoors can provide an opportunity to explore different routes, enjoy the natural scenery, and challenge yourself by setting goals for distance or pace. Unlike the treadmill, outdoor running also requires more effort, so it can be a great way to feel accomplished.

Furthermore, the fresh air can improve oxygen intake and help to improve concentration and performance. Additionally, outdoor running can be more fun and social, as you can run with friends or join a local running group. These benefits can make it easier to maintain a running routine and improve your overall health. So, what are you waiting for? Grab your shoes and hit the road!

Connection with nature

Aside from releasing endorphins, running outdoors helps us feel connected with nature. The sights, sounds, and smells of the natural world can have a calming effect on our minds when we’re stressed or anxious. The color green has also been linked to happiness, and spending time in natural environments can improve our moods.

The soothing effects of nature can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. Studies have shown that people who regularly spend time outdoors have higher self-esteem and have reduced levels of depression. This is likely because time spent in natural settings can reduce feelings of isolation, boost our immune systems, and provide a sense of purpose and meaning.

Outdoor running also provides an opportunity for social interaction with friends and family, which can further increase our feelings of well-being and happiness. In addition, regular exercise outside helps regulate our sleep/wake cycles by increasing exposure to sunlight and reducing cortisol levels. Considering the many benefits of connecting with nature through outdoor running, it’s no wonder that more and more companies are encouraging their employees to run outdoors.

Distraction from negative thoughts and worries

Running has been shown to be a great way to distract yourself from negative thoughts and worries. In addition to the calming effects of exercise, running outside can help you feel more connected to nature and give you more energy to tackle the rest of your day.

Several studies have found that both indoor and outdoor running can improve mood, but the benefits of outdoor running may be greater. These benefits include better sleep quality, improved self-esteem and confidence, and reduced stress levels.

When you run, your body releases a chemical called endorphins, which can make you feel happier and calmer. You can also use running as a way to distract yourself from negative thoughts and worries by focusing on your breathing or the scenery around you. Try to focus on positive thoughts or things that you’re grateful for. This will help you to keep your negative thoughts in perspective and remind you that they are just temporary feelings. It’s also helpful to write down your negative thoughts so that you can remember them later and recognize them when they come up again in daily life.

Boosted brain health and cognitive function

Running increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that helps moderate the brain’s response to stress. It also boosts the production of vitamin D, a nutrient that helps to regulate mood and reduce the risk of depression.

Research has shown that incorporating running into your regular routine can help improve memory, cognitive function and prevent the cognitive decline that often accompanies aging. This is believed to be due to the fact that exercise stimulates the formation of new blood vessels that nourish the brain. It can also cause the brain to produce new cells in some areas, known as neurogenesis.

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Studies have shown that both indoor and outdoor running can improve your mood, but the benefits are greatest when you run outdoors. This may be because of the variation in terrain, sights and sounds. It has also been suggested that the act of running itself can help relieve anxiety and depression by regulating sleep and boosting self-esteem. Running can also help to establish a normal sleep schedule, although it is recommended that you do not exercise too close to bedtime.


Running outdoors provides a unique challenge that requires your muscles to engage in different ways than when you run on a treadmill. For instance, when you bound down a trail avoiding roots or rocks and jump over curbs, your core, quads, and calves all get engaged to help you balance and control your body. This helps make you a stronger and more resilient runner, as well as a better balanced person overall.

Outdoor running also increases your exposure to the sun and fresh air, boosting your mood and energizing you. It also engages more of your muscles, and can burn more calories than indoor training.

While there are some variations in research methodology, most studies find that acute bouts of treadmill, outdoor, and social running improve mood. Furthermore, most intensities of exercise improve mood, with the exception of running at a high intensity above lactate threshold.



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