Mental health benefits of trail running RunHunters
April 26, 2020
 min read

Mental health benefits of trail running

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Matty Abel
Capra Team
April 26, 2020
 min read

Trail running has been booming over the past few years seeing thousands each year flock to popular trail running events such as the Western States 100miler , Ultra-Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB) and closer to our home here in Sydney Australia, Ultra-Trail Australia. However, these events are the pinnacle of trail running and not all have crazy ambitions to run 100 miles or kilometres through mountainous terrain. For some, it’s just hitting their local trail to unwind from the hustle and bustle of living in busy cities.

So why has trail running becoming so popular? We asked some of Australia’s respected trail runners why they believe trail running has become so popular over the past few years.

Jacqui Bell Ultra Endurance Runner

I believe trail running has become so popular in the past few years for many reasons but I think a major one would be as a way for people to take a step away from technology. More recently than ever our lives involve being constantly connected through emails, calls, Instagram and even more so now through the Covid-19 we find ourselves interacting less and less in-person and more online.

Trail running is an amazing way to step away from this, disconnect from technology and reconnect with ourselves and nature. You get to see some beautiful scenery out on the trails and there is something peaceful about running to a rhythm of the trails. 

Trail running is different to road running in the fact that it is a lot more forgiving on your body and the sport goes beyond how fast you run each kilometre. Trail running is both fun and character-building because it pushes and tests you against yourself.

You can find our more about Jacqui Bell on her website and follow her adventures on Instagram

Stephan Redfern - 2nd place at Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge 2020 (298km)

I feel that trail running has become popular in the past few years, due to the greater social presence the sport has achieved. There is now a wider community of runners these days enjoying trail running, but more from a different angle of wanting to enjoy the sport in more of a group environment. 

Having all this extra support and lots of social encouragement over the last few years has certainly opened this great sport up to a wider audience and able to show them that running is all about what you want to make of it 

I also strongly believe that combined with social engagement trail running can greatly increase one’s positive mental health as it has played an extremely big role in my life since I took up running over the last 6 years.

Since taking up trail running, I have certainly changed to have a more passive mental outlook on life and with all aspects of what I now do, including how I approach my job at work whilst being a leader for my crew. For me, I find that running is a great form of meditation and I often head out for in the bush to be able to clear the mind and relax back down and enjoying what nature and the world has to offer and is all about.

After seeing a common theme across answers with our interviewed athletes I started putting more research into the Mental Health benefits of trail running and came across the following benefits:

  • Reduces anxiety and stress
  • Increases oxygen to the brain
  • Encourages problem-solving
  • Fights depression
  • Boosts confidence 
  • Boosts mental concentration

However, during further research, I found a research paper on the physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing), where they found the physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku show that forest environments could lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, increase parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity compared with city settings. The results of the physiological measurements suggest that Shinrin-yoku can aid in effectively relaxing the human body, and the psychological effects of forest areas have been correlated with the various physical environmental factors of forest. The studies of Shinrin-yoku provide valuable insights into the relationship between forests and human health.

Bringing this study together with the answers from our interviewed athletes there is no doubt in that being out enjoying nature whilst trail running definitely has a positive impact on both one’s mental and physical health.

Since day one our mission at RunHunters has been to give all runners the information and confidence to explore great runs locally and internationally and as a result, help improve the physical and mental health of the population. We hope to see you out exploring new areas whilst using RunHunters and don’t forget to tag us on Instagram @runhunters so together we can both inspire others to get out there and explore.

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