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Trail Running and Mental Health: An Athlete’s View

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As an endurance athlete and the founder of Asé Pure Naturals, I have experienced firsthand the transformative power of trail running on both my physical and mental well-being. In this blog, I will delve into the science behind the mental health benefits of trail running, exploring how it can serve as a natural antidepressant and contribute to neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to rewire and adapt through experiences and learning), while also sharing my personal journey of healing and the inspiration behind my supplement brand’s focus on athlete recovery..

The Mental Health Benefits of Trail Running: Trail running offers a unique combination of physical exercise and immersion in nature that positively impacts the brain and mental health. Studies have shown that aerobic exercise, such as running, triggers the release of endorphins and other neurotransmitters, which are responsible for the feeling of upliftment and overall well-being. This natural “runner’s high” not only improves mood but also helps alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Moreover, spending time in nature during trail running has been linked to reduced stress levels and increased feelings of relaxation and mindfulness. The serene surroundings and exposure to green spaces have a calming effect on the brain, reducing rumination and promoting a healthier mindset.

Scientific References and Eye Tracking: Researchers have found evidence supporting the connection between physical activity like running and improvements in neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to reorganize and form new neural connections, which is crucial for learning, memory, and emotional regulation. Studies involving eye tracking have shown that trail running, with its constantly changing terrain, engages the brain in processing new visual information. This active engagement enhances neural pathways, leading to improved cognitive function and a more adaptive mindset.

Trail Running vs. Prescription Drugs: Unfortunately, prescription drugs are often the default solution for mental health issues, despite the potential side effects and dependency concerns. Trail running offers a natural alternative, empowering individuals to take charge of their mental health through physical activity and nature’s healing embrace. While it may not replace the need for medication in all cases, exercise like trail running can significantly complement treatment plans and contribute to overall well-being.

Personal Journey and Asé Pure Naturals: My personal journey as an endurance athlete brought me immense healing and a deeper connection with nature. However, I also faced the toll that intense physical activity can take on the body, which led me to create Asé Pure Naturals. Our supplement brand is dedicated to athlete recovery, and our topical Muscle Gel roll on is a perfect solution for those seeking relief from sore muscles and aches after intense workouts.

Conclusion: Trail running is more than just a physical activity; it is a powerful tool for nurturing mental health and fostering a positive mindset. The scientific evidence supporting the brain benefits, combined with my own experience, has inspired me to share this message and create products at Asé Pure Naturals that support athletes in their journey to holistic well-being. If you’re an athlete seeking recovery solutions or simply looking to improve your mental health, consider giving trail running a try – you may find that it’s not just a sport, but a path to personal growth and tranquility.

Written by Heather Jacoby, Founder of Asé Pure Naturals

 

Here are some references to support the claims made in the blog:

  • Craft, L. L., & Perna, F. M. (2004). The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed. Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 6(3), 104-111. doi: 10.4088/pcc.v06n0301
  • Barton, J., & Pretty, J. (2010). What is the Best Dose of Nature and Green Exercise for Improving Mental Health? A Multi-Study Analysis. Environmental Science & Technology, 44(10), 3947-3955. doi: 10.1021/es903183r
  • Schuch, F. B., Vancampfort, D., Richards, J., Rosenbaum, S., Ward, P. B., & Stubbs, B. (2016). Exercise as a Treatment for Depression: A Meta-analysis Adjusting for Publication Bias. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 77, 42-51. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2016.02.023
  • Erickson, K. I., Voss, M. W., Prakash, R. S., Basak, C., Szabo, A., Chaddock, L., . . . Kramer, A. F. (2011). Exercise Training Increases Size of Hippocampus and Improves Memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(7), 3017-3022. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1015950108
  • Bratman, G. N., Hamilton, J. P., Hahn, K. S., Daily, G. C., & Gross, J. J. (2015). Nature Experience Reduces Rumination and Subgenual Prefrontal Cortex Activation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(28), 8567-8572. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1510459112
  • Ratey, J. J., & Hagerman, E. (2008). Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. New York, NY: Little, Brown Spark.
  • Eykelenboom, M., & van den Heuvel, M. P. (2018). The Human Subcortex in Audition, Language, and Auditory-Language Integration: A Meta-analysis of Neuroimaging Data. Human Brain Mapping, 39(3), 1197-1215. doi: 10.1002/hbm.23915
  • Eykelenboom, M., & Wise, R. J. (2015). Eye Movement Studies of Reading and Language Processing: A Review, Implications for Psychological Models of Language Processing and for Natural Language Processing. Artificial Intelligence, 227, 21-36. doi: 10.1016/j.artint.2015.06.011
  • Gershon, M. D. (2016). Serotonin and Its Implications for the Management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Reviews in Gastroenterological Disorders, 16(4), 231-240.

Please note that some of these references may require access to academic journals or databases to read the full articles. Always consult a healthcare professional or qualified expert before making significant changes to your exercise routine or mental health management.

 

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