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Study highlights mental health boost of running during coronavirus pandemic

By John Davidson

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Runners surveyed said that the exercise had helped their mind as much as their body. Picture: John Davidson
Runners surveyed said that the exercise had helped their mind as much as their body. Picture: John Davidson

Running has helped people in Scotland combat mental health issues during the pandemic, new research shows.

A survey of 1531 runners revealed that a quarter of Scottish runners are new to the sport, having taken it up for the first time since lockdown was introduced last March.

Since then, it has become a staple activity to help us get through the weeks, with 21 per cent saying it has helped with mental health and 34 per cent saying the exercise helps to boost their mood. Thirty per cent revealed it has helped to keep them sane during the pandemic.

In fact, running has had such a positive impact on people in Scotland that 20 per cent admitted they wouldn’t have been able to get through the last year without it.

Almost a third also said running cheers them up and has made them feel happier during these challenging times and 45 per cent revealed it has become their ritual to help get them through the pandemic.

The research was commissioned by Runners Need as part of its Run For You campaign, which is aiming to boost the region’s mental health by helping everyone embrace the joy of running.

It found that 34 per cent get a buzz and feel uplifted after going for a run, with the average Scottish runner saying their endorphins kick in 17 minutes into their session.

Running can create such a positive impact that 33 per cent of runners feel uplifted for the rest of the day and 30 per cent say it’s one of the main ways they combat low mood and depression.

As Scotland has adapted to a slower pace of life during the last year, the focus on our wellbeing – both mental and physical – has shifted to the fore. Nearly a third of Scottish runners admitted it has become more important to them over the past year and over a quarter say running helps their mind as much as their body.

In fact, 85 per cent of respondents in Scotland have noticed an improvement in their mental health since taking up running or running more often.

Bill Williams, store manager at Runners Need in Inverness, said: “Running is such an easy and simple way to not only improve our physical health and fitness but also to create a positive impact on our mental health too.

“Since March last year running has exploded and we’re seeing so many people put on their running shoes and take to the streets of Scotland to exercise, which is fantastic. It has definitely been a great way to stop people from going mad at home and now these new runners may have found that they’ve become addicted as they discover the buzz and feel-good factor that running brings.

“Just being outdoors in the fresh air and putting one foot in front of the other is incredibly therapeutic. As we start to emerge out of lockdown I’d urge Scotland to keep up the exercise and continue to reap the benefits running brings to our lives.

“Until our stores in Scotland can safely reopen, there is a wealth of running support and guidance available on our website.”

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