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Running can lift mental health blues

Up to one in six people have experienced a mental health problem in the past seven days, whether that's depression or anxiety.

Recent findings have pointed to the benefits of exercise such as running to beat the blues.

Research has proven that aerobic exercise can stimulate serotonin and endorphins, but what is it about running specifically that makes it so good for enhancing our mood?

"It's called the 'runner's high' - we don't hear the term 'cyclist's high' or 'rower's high'," says Andy Lane, professor of sports psychology at the University of Wolverhampton. "This could be because running is an extension of a movement humans learn naturally as babies. It's also rhythmic, so possibly there's a meditative quality to it."

Celebrities including Ellie Goulding and Lena Dunham have recently spoken about their love of running and its ability to combat panic attacks, stress and anxiety.

"Research from the University of Essex found that 90% of people found their sense of well-being increased after being active outdoors," says Hayley Jarvis, community programme manager for sport at Mind.

"So get outside, and go during daylight hours if you can so that the sunlight triggers even more serotonin release. Don't go for a run last thing at night as this can interrupt sleep patterns."

It's also important not to go the 'full Paula Radcliffe' on your first outing. "To get the maximum mood-improving benefits of running you'd ideally be doing it three times a week and build up to 45 minutes each time," says Jarvis.

Aside from the hormone rush running has other benefits, including lowering blood pressure and cortisol levels, improving sleep patterns and increasing self-control. "You might feel fitter, stronger and more skilful, not to mention losing weight."

But clearly for people in the depths of a mental health crisis, suggesting they just get up and run a 10k isn't helpful. And even if sprinting is making you feel super-happy again, don't bin the antidepressants just yet. "People should never come off medication without talking to a GP first," Jarvis advises.

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