How running can improve your mental health

Many people take up running to lose weight, or get fit, but did you realise that it can also transform your mental health, too?

How running can improve your mental health

Running coach, England Athletics Mental Health Ambassador and author Tina Chantrey shares her tips on how to ensure running transforms your feelings of self-worth, confidence and positivity.

Tina turned to running to help her cope with anxiety and stress while she went through a complicated divorce. Working her way through a tough life experience, while looking after three young children and working lead to Tina experiencing a complete loss of her sense of self. 

To re-find her focus, release stress as well as other negative emotions, Tina turned to her old friends, her trainers. Running helped her turn her life around. She set up her own morning running group, to help other people in the same situation.

'Without my running group, I wouldn’t have coped with a dark chapter of my life,' says Tina. 'Running, however hard it feels at the time, gives you strength and self-belief, a theme in my new book, The Divorce Survival Guide, which has six easy steps on how to introduce exercise, and running, into your life to help you cope with difficult emotions.'

Boost your mood

Running may help relieve stress, improve your sleep patterns and, due to the release of endorphins, it can boost your overall mood. This can help you manage stress and anxiety symptoms. You don’t have to be speedy to feel these benefits; jogging and brisk walking can be just as effective.

Focus forward

Running helps you focus forwards and massively boosts your self-esteem, especially if you have previously struggled with the sport. Overcoming your fears, and perception that you ‘can’t run’, then going on to complete races, gives you back a sense of freedom, control and power over your own life.

Run with a buddy

Running with someone will keep you motivated and committed to going out, which gets harder during the winter. Think of this as free therapy! Look for a local, friendly group led by a qualified leader on the RunTogether website. Ask friends on Facebook if they’d like to try running with you, or find a friend right here on The Bug!

Unplug from technology

At least once a week run without your GPS watch. Get off-road and allow your senses to drink in your environment.

Start a running journal

Instead of recording your times/distances/splits, write down creative ideas that come to you as you run, as well as your feelings and emotions. Then you can look back and see how far these change over time.

Be present

Focusing only on the now will help you forget, and let go, of your worries and anxieties. It will help restore your inner balance. Soon running will feel like meditation, where your mind clears and you concentrate only on the path ahead.

If you’re completely new to running start slowly, to give your body the chance to adapt. Start by doing a five-minute warm-up such as power walking or jogging on the spot to raise your heart-rate and body temperature. Then do some simple dynamic stretches such as single leg lunges (10 on each leg) and squats (10).

Try a walk/run between lampposts. Start by jogging two lampposts, then walking two. Slowly increase the numbers you run and feel proud every time you up your distance. If you need more help, try a Couch to 5K training plan. It gives you easy to achieve, small goals every week. Before you know it, you won’t be worrying about when you have to stop!


Tina Chantrey is contributing editor of Women’s Running magazine and author of: The Divorce Survival Guide: How running turned my life around

If you’re looking for motivation and ideas to improve your running, every week Tina posts a new session to try in her Strava group @shewhodaresruns 

You can also follow what her running group gets up to every week on Instagram @shewhodaresrun


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