By Dylan Broggio, LCSW-R

There is a healing power to running.
In high school I would take off for long
runs down gravel roads covered by lush towering trees. In college I would run
the 9 mile perimeter of campus, to clear writers block, or de-stress during
exams. Whatever the stress, a good hard run made my problems shrink to a
manageable size.

Numerous studies have shown that exercise stimulates the
neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine, and beta-endorphin, all of
which elevate mood and reduce depression
and anxiety
Keith Johnsgard,
Ph.D, author of “Conquering Depression and Anxiety Through Exercise”, highlights
a few ways
to get the most mental health benefit out of
your running or other aerobic exercise:

1.    Run at least 20-30 minutes to get 5-6 hours of reduction in negative emotions such as anxiety,
anger, or depression.

2.    Take a few deep breaths at the start and imagine breathing in positive energy, and exhaling the
stressful or anxious emotions.

Run outside. Being in nature helps us realize
life is a lot bigger than our problems.

Increase Intensity. The mental and physical benefits
increase as the intensity increases. No pain, no gain!

Run with a friend or in a group. For added
social support and connection. Your running buddy or group can be a great
sounding board and/or provide some great laughs!

In place of running your aerobic exercise of choice might be power walking, tennis, swimming, rowing, biking or sailing. Any activity that boosts and maintains an elevated heart rate for 20-30 minutes does the trick.

Dr. Austin Gontang, Ph.D., Get Some Running Therapy, actually has therapy sessions with his clients while running!  "Getting out and talking with others while
you run or walk can help change your thoughts and give you a different
perspective on how you choose to deal with anger, grief, or trauma," he

If you don't run now and would like to try it, first get the OK from your physician, then start out slowly and build gradually allowing your body to acclimate to the new activity. Runner's World has a great program: Training for Beginners and there are training apps available for your iPod or smartphone. For a social take on running, you can find a Meet Up group at any level to run with just about anywhere you happen to be.

Running can be a lifelong friend, a dependable companion,
and a phenomenal stress buster. Those Nike’s have healing powers to slow the mind,
calm fears, and shrink problems back to a normal size so we can get a handle on

Photo courtesy of Steve Crane