Looking for an emotional and physical boost? Try running.

Before he was diagnosed with cancer, Mark Conover had been a professional runner for years. As he recovered, running took on a completely new role in his life.

Photo courtesy of Mark Conover

“It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with cancer and had to go through chemotherapy when I finally realized why I became a runner in the first place,” said the Cal Poly track and field and cross-country coach. “Running was my best friend.”

After his toughest days of chemotherapy, he would not allow himself to dwell on his situation. Instead he put his running shoes on.

“The endorphins and the feelings you get after completing a run or a work out certainly do aid to put you in a better frame of mind,” he said.

Conover is not alone. Running helps reduce stress-related psychiatric disorders, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

It also enhances learning, memory, and even ones lifespan, according to recent studies.

The proven benefits of running

Improvements in stress, depression, anxiety, learning and memory skills were found from the Behavioral Brain Research, which studied mice that ran on a treadmill for six weeks.

Runners have a 25 to 40 percent reduced risk of early death and live approximately three years longer than non-runners, according to a study published in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases in March.

“Running is protective against both cardiovascular disease and cancer, the two leading causes of death in most developed countries including the US.”

Individuals who run reduce their risk of cancer-related deaths to 30-50 percent.

Not only is running protective against cancer and cardiovascular disease, but running also protects conditions such as, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and respiratory infections.

How to start running

Having proper shoes is key for anyone wishing to begin running, Conover said. He also recommends setting a specific distance goal before you head out for a run.

“The main thing is to be gradual, look for some running partners and seek advice from running magazines.” — Mark Conover

Conover recommends running outside versus running on the treadmill because of the natural beauty that surrounds us.

“Raw inspiration from your environment will help soothe the mind,” he said.

Photo courtesy of Natalie Drucker

Natalie Drucker found running to be the only way to reduce her stress, clear her mind and lessen her anxiety from the social and educational stresses of college.

If you’re new to running, Drucker has some advice: “A beginner should start slow and get a running buddy and slowly start running longer and faster if that’s what your goal is,” the first-year kinesiology major and Cal Poly track team member said. “Baby steps is best for running otherwise you’ll die out too fast.”

How running improved my life

Moving away to college was an adjustment for me. I found the quarter system to be extremely fast and the work load to be overwhelming. After a few weeks into the first quarter, I decided to start running because of the many stresses that were thrown my way.

After I introduced running into my routine, my anxiety, stress and learning skills improved. In fact, my grades skyrocketed.

I started off fall quarter with 12 units, increased the following quarter to 16 units, and am now enrolled in 20 units. I found myself to be less stressed with 20 units, simply because I run daily.

I started off slow and gradually increased the pace and time that I would run for. The run-walk method helped prepare me to run for 30 minutes straight.

My favorite time to go on a run and clear my mind is after studying for long amounts of time. Doing this gives my brain a break, strengthens my mood, and refocuses me so I can finish studying.

With midterms approaching, I will take full advantage of the benefits associated with running.


2 thoughts on “Looking for an emotional and physical boost? Try running.

Add yours

  1. As someone who has always hated running, this post was helpful in inspiring me to want to run to better my physical health and reduce stress. I think the facts paired with the personal stories were successful in relaying the point of the article.


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