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Run Yourself Happy - The Miracle Cure Improving Mental Health

November 1, 2017

Running in a group makes 90% of people happier

Whilst the physical benefits of running are well known, new research released today reveals that improvements in emotional health and wellbeing are being experienced by an extraordinary three-quarters of runners.

In the first major poll* of its kind, questioning 13,200 people over 12 months between September 2016 and August 2017, 74% of runners said they felt running was good for their mental wellbeing.

In an additional survey** of the England Athletics’ RunTogether community, a staggering 89% of all runners said they had increased happiness as a direct result of running with others or in a group.

Experts confirm that running, especially in a group, can do wonders for mental health.

“Physical exercise improves a person’s well-being by releasing endorphins, the body’s ‘feel good’ hormones.
Studies show that in mild to moderate depression patients who exercise regularly do as well as those prescribed antidepressant medications or talking therapies.” Dr Averil McClelland, GP and elite Masters Athlete. 

GP and author of Sorted: The Active Woman's Guide to Health, Juliet McGrattan added “Energy levels and motivation are low when you are struggling with depression. Exercising and committing to a group can help give you the extra boost to get you going and keep you going.”

The results of this research reinforce the huge success of England Athletics’ RunTogether programme, which breaks down barriers for individuals new to running, and helps them to build confidence, establish relationships and cope with the daily stresses of life. Over 40,000 people have registered to join RunTogether, seeking opportunities to run with others, since the programme launched in January 2017.

Running in groups brings other benefits. The poll showed that group runners were more likely to be regular runners (62%) when compared to solo runners (51%).

The rapid growth in running groups across the country is significant for England Athletics as it works towards its goal of getting one million people into athletics and running by 2021.  There’s also been a big increase in the number of people becoming Run Leaders, with over 3,000 people a year taking England Athletics’ Leadership in Running Fitness (LiRF) qualification.

Commenting on the findings, Matt Birkett, Head of Participation at England Athletics, said: “At a time when mental health is a such key concern for society, it’s great to formally acknowledge that something as simple as running with others can make such a significant difference to happiness and emotional wellbeing. Whether you’re contemplating lacing up in preparation for your first walk-jog or training for a specific event, being around other people who share your goals and motivation can be a powerful influence and the highly accessible RunTogether website means it’s easier than ever to find a local running group. With 1,328 RunTogether groups nationwide, people can choose from sessions ranging from ‘Get Me Started’ right through to ‘Challenge Me’.”

Priory consultant, Dr Laurence Church, who is based at the Priory’s Hospital in Woking, Surrey said: “I treat an increasing number of people suffering from stress, depression and anxiety.  Exercise, often running, can be an important component of recovery from mental health problems, and in maintaining well-being.  The power of the social aspect of the RunTogether programme appears to be an important ingredient for many - boosting self-confidence, reducing social isolation and ensuring people keep coming back.”

Someone that credits group running with changing their life is Mary Messenger from Carlisle who found running to help her deal with the pain she was suffering following the tragic death of her son Sam aged 23, who died through suicide in 2015.

She started to take part in Carlisle's weekly Park Run joined Denton Holme-based DH Runners, finding that converting the emotional pain into a physical battle actually helped her through.

She used the running club to start conversations about mental health and suicide, and began using her newfound fitness to raise money for CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), which supports young men in crisis or those suffering from low mood. To date Mary has raised £3,668 for the charity.

This year Mary has completed a 500 mile virtual charity incorporating her first ever half marathon, the Cumbrian Run. On her Just Giving page Mary says: “Thanks to everyone for your support especially all my run friends at DH who have helped more than they will ever realize”

Read more about Mary>>