Why running is so good for your mind and body (especially during a lockdown)

Running is great for weight loss and endurance training, but it's also a reprieve from the lockdown blues

Running
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Feeling bored stuck at home? Lace up those running shoes and hit the great outdoors. Thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, more of us are lacing up the best running shoes for men and the best running shoes for women than ever before. 

It's no surprise as to why this is the case: as many of us are stuck inside, unable to physically meet with friends and family, running can be an escape, a way to get ourselves out of the house in the morning, evening or on the weekend. Running might be a great way to burn calories, but it's also fantastic for your mental health. 

Running is well-known to promote the release of dopamine, a hormone which stimulates the reward centre in our brain. It's the same chemical released when we eat chocolate, receive a social media notification, or get a kiss from a loved one. Strenuous physical exercise also causes an increase in our body's production of serotonin, which is known as the "happy hormone".

However, running in quarantine is about more than just chemicals. In a time in which we're all stuck inside more than ever, running provides a necessary sense of of movement, space and travelling. Rather than staying inside in a temperature-controlled environment, we're out in the wind and cold, or heat, not looking at our phones or watching Netflix. HIIT workouts in your front room just don't seem to hit the same spot. 

Man trail running in winter

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Of course, there's science to this, too. Spending time in nature is crucial to your health and well-being according to the journal Scientific Reports, and running through your local park (or even trail running, if you live near nature) can certainly help with that. Another study found spending as little as 10 minutes in nature can promote short-term feelings of calm, helping even short runs become a temporary balm against feelings of anxiety brought on as a result of the global pandemic.

If you're able to run during the day, you also get a dose of vitamin D from the sunshine outside, which is of course something we're missing being stuck inside. Vitamin D has also been found to improve our mood, making it the "sunshine vitamin" in more ways than one.

There's plenty of benefits to owning one of the best treadmill or best exercise bike, such as providing a controlled environment to adjust the difficulty of your cardio. However, if you're feeling blue or lonely as a result of lockdown, getting outside and going for regular runs is one of the best things you could do to improve your mood. If you're brand new to running and want to get started, you could check out our popular Couch to 5K plan.

Matt Evans
Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and Staff Writer at Fit&Well. He's previously written for titles like Men's Health, and covers all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. 

Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen kickboxer and runner. His top fitness tip? Stretch.