The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on all humankind and has forever transformed society over the course of the past year. With virus, social distancing, remote work, and quarantine being some of the words we hear on a daily basis, we’ve all had to turn to finding coping mechanisms to deal with the physical and psychological effects that this period has had on us.
After many gyms and indoor sports activities had to be shut down to prevent the further spread of the virus, the outdoors luckily resurged in popularity as the slightly safer alternative for exercising. It takes only a short stroll around your local park to see that many people have taken up running to get their minutes of daily exercise in. Fitness apps, as well, saw a significant increase in activity rates. In 2020, Strava reported a 33% increase in activities uploaded in comparison to the year before.
What then, other than the lack of alternatives, has driven people more and more towards running outdoors amid the outbreak of a new pandemic? The health benefits of running have been known for quite some time now, but the time spent outside this year offered much more than that. Here are some of the overall benefits and reasons to consider making running outdoors part of your weekly routine.
Improves Mental Health
The circumstances surrounding this past year have deeply impacted our mental health, with stress, anxiety, and depression levels reporting higher than previous years. Running and exercise in general are long considered as an effective way to cope with mental health problems, since they are associated with a release of endorphins, the chemicals that help to reduce stress and feelings of pain in the body.
Moreover, when we run, the brain pumps out endocannabinoids, a biochemical compound that is associated with the post-exercise euphoric feeling we know as ‘runner’s high.’ These changes are the ultimate healthy mood boost we’ve been needing during this pandemic.
The release of endorphins and endocannabinoids not only contribute to an overall better mood, but they also play a big part in our energy levels. One would think that physical activity will tire you more quickly, and that is true to some extent if you over-exercise or don’t fuel properly, but that release of feel-good hormones will, in fact, give you an instant boost of energy.
We’ve all been at some point in our lives where running felt like a struggle rather than a source of energy, but by implementing exercise as a regular part of our lives, we condition the body to perform better over time.
Reduces Cardiovascular Risk Factors
We don’t call running ‘cardio’ for nothing. This form of exercise is one of the most efficient ways to improve your overall cardiovascular health and risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity, and blood sugar sensitivity. Studies on the current COVID-19 virus have suggested that cardiovascular diseases were linked to higher rates of fatality in cases of infection, therefore taking care of our heart health by exercising regularly and eating well is essential.
Gives You a Change of Scenery
With all the outside chaos that this pandemic brought, our homes were a safe haven from the risks of infection. But, being confined within four walls for long periods of time has been undoubtedly exhausting as well. Outdoor running and other activities luckily came to the rescue, not only as a way to move our bodies, but also as a change of scenery from the limited space in our homes. There is nothing like fresh air, trees, plants, and a change of surroundings to help with the rut that many lockdowns in a row got us into.
You Get a Boost of Vitamin D
All that time spent inside has manifested itself into another deficiency that was already present in a great percentage of people even before the pandemic. That is the lack of Vitamin D, a vital regulator of nutrients that help maintain bone and muscle health. We get a fair amount of this vitamin from direct sunlight on our skin, therefore a run outside doubles as a way to get your daily dose of it.
Strengthens Immune System
The increasing risk of infection from the virus has further emphasized the importance of a strong immune system that fights it. While there are numerous factors that contribute to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, exercise makes for an important part of it. Running and other forms of physical activity have shown to be a great tool in strengthening the immune system, due to the increase of blood and lymph flow and the circulation of immune cells as the muscles contract.
Helps with Weight Loss
Maintaining a healthy weight is another important component for overall better health. Moreover, obesity and a high body mass index have been determined as one among high-risk factors for more severe and fatal cases of the virus worldwide, thus further highlighting the significance of this issue. Running outdoors during these times can be an ideal way to shed off some extra pounds, as it is a form of exercise that burns the most calories in comparison to others. Other than that, making time for a run can further motivate you to modify your eating habits as well, which is a crucial factor in healthy weight loss.
These were some of the many ways that we can benefit from running outdoors. The positive outlook that exercise can bring, together with the joy of being in open air, make for a much-needed addition in an otherwise tumultuous period in our lives. Remember to protect yourself and others by wearing a mask in areas where you can’t maintain physical distance and to practice good hygiene. Happy running and stay safe!
About our Guest Post Author
Stella Larson is a Content Marketing Specialist at The Running Insider. Apart from coming up with marketing strategies, she is passionate about writing topics that involve health, running, and all other kinds of activities.