A girl running in a park

This is where running can take your mental health…

According to the Mental Health Foundation, 15,000 first year students in the UK reported having mental health issues in 2015/16.

This is five times the amount that reported the same issues in 2006, and it would be unsurprising if this number hadn’t grown over the past few years!

As a result, students and universities alike are looking to find ways to enhance wellbeing. In amongst the suggestions, exercise is mentioned time and time again as an important release for those struggling. In particular, running.

Running is accessible and simple, and all you need is a pair of trainers. You don’t need to plan a route, organise a time, travel anywhere, purchase equipment – you just set off. In the process, you create a map of the places around you that you didn’t know existed before now. Cycle paths and parks and small roads that take you away and then back home.

Sometimes, running will exhaust you to the lung-bursting point that whatever anxiety was pestering you before you set off, is forced to take a backseat for a moment. Then, you’re past the pain and you’re just running – this release and clarity takes the front seat. Once again, that niggling worry or low feeling is pushed to the back, even just for 20 minutes. You might return home and realise that for the past 5km, your stomach hasn’t been in a knot.

Achieving a goal and making progress comes naturally to running. You will run further, faster, or with more ease, with each week that passes. And if not, you might have left the house when you didn’t think you would that day. Running creates achievable goals for you. These accomplishments you didn’t even set out to reach can fill you with confidence – something which is hard to feel on the bad days.

Finally, although running may seem like an isolating sport, it has the unique quality of being both independent and communal. Some days, half an hour of solo running is the perfect way to get out of your own head. But through running you are opened up to a whole community of people. Whether its other people’s routes on Strava, the hundreds who run alongside you at Parkrun, the stranger who runs past you in the opposite direction. This common sport unites people through the shared knowledge of how it can change your life.

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