Running and Anxiety

Sunday’s run, August 28, 2022, was crazy—in many ways. Lots of interesting company. But around about 4.5 in Villa Park, while running with Nora, Molly, Longry, Jeannette, and the guys, it started raining. Correction: it was pouring. I had 13.5 miles to go. I saw Jeff McGlynn and David Maze, and Ed Scheer and Emily too. The crew with Sam and Mike Thiel were hit in VP too. It did not rain in Glen Ellyn at 7AM… just where we were running. The rain was fun. I felt like Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds in that old movie.

I am not a doctor. Also, I very much believe in therapy and drug treatment –when deemed necessary by mental health professionals. If anyone needs help, please seek a health or mental health professional.

I will admit it: running is not a choice for me; it is a necessity. I did not start training for and running marathons and half marathons to help my anxiety but doing so has almost cured my life-long anxiety.

You do not have to believe me. It’s a medical fact that running helps with anxiety. In Johns Hopkins Physiology professor, David J. Linden’s blog post on the mental benefits of running, he states that endorphins normally prevent muscle pain while running, but it is extraordinary when endorphins can change a person’s mood. This is because, Linden asserts, that endorphins cannot pass the blood/brain barrier.

So why does running feel good? Endocannabinoids. This biochemical—created by the human body–is what gives runners that “runner’s high”. Endocannabinoids are cannabis-like in structure. Running increases–like all vigorous exercise–their production and unlike endorphins, endocannabinoids can pass through the blood-brain barrier very easily. Linden calls them, “mood-improving neuromodulators”. He says they temporarily help settle anxiety and promote a sense of calm.

‘Exercise has a dramatic anti-depressive effect,’ says Linden. ‘It blunts the brain’s response to physical and emotional stress.’

As far as I know, physical and emotional stressors are the starting line of anxiety. Right? If running helps me make cannabinoids–which dull my sense of my physical and emotional stressors—I won’t be as anxious as I usually am. Awesome!

Bring on the run! Good running!