Running outdoors and in a group is a winning combination for both physical and mental health


When it comes to ticking all the right boxes for fitness, health and general well-being running does exactly that. And there’s more – let’s not forget it’s fun!

All of that may be so, but we know it’s a tough ask for anyone to experience that on their own, which is where RunTogether comes in! Understandably we’re all a little nervous of taking that first step and joining a group – no matter how much we understand it’ll help. Everybody in the group will be amazing right? Everybody is faster than me? Yes and no! Amazing because they are there to help and no, every speed is catered for. That was why RunTogether was created. It allows us all to benefit from everything running provides because running and jogging is more fun and easier to become part of your lifestyle when shared with others in a group.

social running group

“I was impressed at how welcoming everyone was and really enjoyed the session. I came along to a few more sessions and soon became a regular. I enjoyed how friendly people were and over time these people turned into run buddies and friends,” says Karen Allbrighton, a RunTogether member since 2016 echoing a sentiment you’ll hear time and again.

It’s definitely worth taking that first step towards group running again. As we all emerge from these unusual times and reacquaint ourselves with what was once real life but now could feel a little nerve wracking – meeting friends and gathering in groups, things that felt so natural but might now be uncomfortable – running has everything on its side. After all, even if you run a bigger group, natural social distancing occurs; while being outdoors, the best part of a summer of running has so much going for it’s difficult to know where to start. Green space, oxygen, amazing scenery, wildlife…the list is long and the science will always confirm one thing – being outside, running is just about the best thing you can do for your mental and physical health.

Here's just a few things our RunTogether runners have discovered:

runners in parkland

1. In January 2019 I was 6½ stone overweight, I was unfit, and I couldn’t make it to the top of my stairs without being out of breath.

I made one decision in January. I decided to back myself. I started on New Year’s morning (like all good resolution makers do) with a trip to a local Parkrun. Fast forward 12 months and I’d lost 6½ stone and pulled that PB down by 16 minutes. If you sit very still for 16 minutes, you’ll realise what a long time that is.

Emma Holmes.

2. No need for words really...

Just a simple emoji ❤️

Shelby Williams

3. Fab views.

I found running a great start to the day when I was working, it allowed me to process what needed to be done and get it straight in my own mind before the madness started!

Martin Bedrock

4. When running you can experience every single emotion that’s possible for a human being to experience.

Never label those emotions good or bad, never sit and dwell in them or over analyse them. Take them at face value and use them to power on.

Emma Holmes

In short

  1. Running has been proven to boost self esteem
  2. A single exposure to nature can lift your mood for up to seven hours
  3. Spending time outdoors can reduce the risk of depression by 30%
  4. Regular exercise can be a more effective treatment than taking anti-depressants
  5. Being active improves sleep quality, while reducing stress and anxiety levels

group warm up outside

And let’s not forget, running is wonderfully simple.

It doesn’t need much specialist kit – a pair of running shoes and some lightweight breathable kit and you’re sorted for the summer – and it’s a sport that fits perfectly into almost lifestyle. Haven’t got time to run? Try running the final few miles of your commute by parking further away or getting off the train or bus a stop or two early. And of course, the school run is perfect to fit some training into your hectic day. Walk to school – it’s almost like a mobility session, loosening you up – then run home. What could be better? “A QUOTE HERE FROM SOMEONE WHO COMMUTES ON THE SCHOOL RUN??”

These are great tips to help you get a few miles in, slow and easy.

Remember, regular exercise will improve cardiovascular function by strengthening heart muscle, reducing pulse rate and keeping artery walls more elastic. It burns fat, builds muscle and improves vitality; when done socially, it helps to strengthen our relationships. Regular exercise and movement are one of the most effective ways to be healthier, happier and fitter. Running outdoors in green spaces can have a cognitive impact on mental health. As can running in blue spaces – i.e. near water; there’s that beach again! That simple route choice can have an emotional and cognitive uplift which is really positive for us runners. In fact, a study from Translational Psychiatry found that combining meditation with running reduced symptoms of depression by 40% for depressed participants. Try it and see!

And remember, we’re all in this together.

At RunTogether mental health is a year-round subject. The mental health charity Mind has reported that more than half of adults, and over two thirds of young people, say that their mental health has got worse during the pandemic. That’s why RunTogether via England Athletics we are hosting a series of online Let’s Talk About Mental Health events throughout 2021 and 2022 – to get the sport talking!

Through six speaker and panel sessions, we’ll be sharing stories of personal mental health experiences, discussing what we can do to support mental health through athletics and running, and sharing how you can access support through our #RunAndTalk programme.

group of 3 smiling runners

All you need to do now is get outdoors – and ideally with others!

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