As well as physical benefits like strengthening lungs, preventing high blood pressure, joint potency and a strong immune stystem, running is favourable when it comes to our overall mental wellbeing, offering psychological pluses like the “runner's high” and increased confidence. And now a new study investigating running behaviours and mental health during lockdown reveals more people are running to help them cope with things, feel free, saner and more in control. In fact, due to the restrictions, which have led to feelings of confinement and isolation, people have fallen in love with running, according to the new research by ASICS to mark Global Running Day, which takes place on the first Wednesday of every June.
The study by the Kobe-based leading designer, manufacturer and retailer of high-performance athletic footwear, apparel and accessories included 14,000 regular exercisers from 12 countries. And results found that over a third (36 percent) are more active now than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic began, despite most sports being difficult to execute due to social distancing measures. Additionally, figures from fitness-tracking app Runkeeper show that runners of every level are pounding the pavement more often. During April, global registaration spiked by 252 percent and there was a 44 percent increase when it came to monthly active users, compared to the same time last year. The app also saw a 62 percent international rise in people heading out for a weekly run.
The ASICS study also highlights the surge in activity is down to more than just physical health for most people. Two-thirds (67 percent) say exercise helps them cope mentally when faced with challenging situations, like the cureent one. What’s more, eight in ten (around 79 percent) runners say their preferred form of exercise makes them feel saner and more in control. A similar number (81 percent) say running is playing a key role in helping them clear their minds, and nine out of 10 runners say they feel best when their mind and body are in balance, a very important advantage during the lockdown.
“Despite the lockdown and social distancing measures, exercise and running in particular have become central to many people’s daily lives. Our study’s findings prove that a run is much more than just a run, especially in times of crisis. It’s a way for people to put aside the mental pressures and challenges of this pandemic and feel free, ” Linda van Aken, VP Running, ASICS EMEA says.
Dr Brendon Stubbs, one of the world’s most influential exercise and mental health researchers, has also touched on the study, saying it shows running has become essential for people in order to enhance their physical and mental wellbeing.
“These findings support previous evidence which has demonstrated that regular exercise is effective to prevent and treat mental health conditions. Overall, the study by ASICS reinforces what we instinctively know: physical activity makes us feel better and never has there been a more important time to become active and experience the mental health benefits from movement,’’ Stubbs, who is based at King’s College London, says.
In addition, all kinds of people who are exercising are keen to keep their active habits going when this crisis is over. Nearly three-quarters of running aficionados (73 percent) say they want to continue clocking as many miles as they are now, while seven in 10 (70 percent) people who work out regularly are determined to continue benefiting from the important role sport and movement is playing in their lives. Perhaps most hearteningly, nearly two thirds (62 percent) of beginners, who took up running after the COVID-19 disaster started, say they plan on sticking with it in future.
With the goal of supporting everyone to enjoy the mental freedom that running brings, ASICS is encouraging people to share their post-run or post-workout picture on Instagram with how running or exercise helps them feel free, including #RunToFeelFree and tagging @ASICSME and a friend to do the same. We’ve added some stylish gear from the brand to get you motivated...