By Helene Ravlich
There is no denying the impact of Covid-19 on the mental health of New Zealanders, which is why athletic brand New Balance is encouraging Kiwis to take time to do one of the most important things to strengthen our mental fitness on World Mental Health Day: run.
Regular physical activity has proven benefits for reducing stress, depression, and anxiety, while boosting memory and ability to learn. When running for mental fitness, it isn’t about going further, faster or changing your body but how good you feel. This World Mental Health Day, Kiwis are invited to mindfully get active and take part in a 5km virtual run, which has been organised by New Balance in association with George FM.
Research from Sport New Zealand shows that Kiwis who do moderate to vigorous exercise such as running, for at least 2.5 hours a week are 51 per cent more likely to have a healthy mental wellbeing. For those who exercise at least 4.5 hours per week, the odds increase to an awesome 65 per cent, showcasing a clear association between physical activity and mental wellbeing. The study found physical activity to be one of the most powerful approaches for reducing and preventing mental distress, which is why New Balance are inviting Kiwis to join the run this Sunday and do their best, regardless of fitness level.
Ultra-endurance athlete and mental health advocate, Matt Fenn, also believes that the benefits of running as a form of physical exercise make it a key a priority for mental wellness based on first-hand experience. “I live by the term ‘running gives us a sense of freedom in a time full of restriction’ and this has inspired me throughout the course of my fitness journey,” he says. “Running for mental fitness provides a chance to forget daily stresses and relax into the present moment. Challenging yourself to get out for a run, no matter how far or fast, gives you a sense of purpose and accomplishment that is difficult to achieve from anything else.”
To recognise World Mental Health Day and help spread the word about the mental and physical benefits of running, New Balance has partnered with George FM to host the aforementioned virtual run. With the help of listeners, George FM is creating the ultimate ‘Mood Booster’ playlist to stream live on airwaves during the run, starting 10am on Sunday 10th October. The playlist will be available via the ROVA app so participants can listen in unison no matter where they are in Aotearoa.
Kiwis who would like to sweat it out on a Sunday and partake in the 5km run can also sign up via newbalance.co.nz/mentalfitness and go in the draw to win New Balance running shoes.
Thought about running, but unsure how to get started? Matt Fenn shares his top tips to get you started:
Set achievable goals
Getting out the door can be the hardest part. Set your goal to simply start running and take it one run at a time, making little goals for each session as you go. Whether you want to run consistently for 10 minutes or 10 kilometres, setting goals that are manageable will help keep you on track. Goals also don’t have to be numeric – you can set a goal to simply feel good or enjoy your run.
Take it slowly
You’ll get the most out of running if you ease into it. It is important to listen to your body and start small, building up your confidence and fitness over time. The first run doesn’t need to be a marathon. Remember to be kind to yourself and start at your own pace. Keep your runs bitesize and doable to motivate you, rather than making you feel overwhelmed.
Do what you enjoy
Running for mental fitness is about finding a style of running that works for you. If you don’t like constant running, then find something else you love instead, like shorter spirt sets or a mix of jogging and walking. You don’t need to run for hours to achieve your goals.
Make it social
Finding a running buddy or joining a run club can make running so much more enjoyable. If you are struggling to find a friend at the same level as you, most areas have a range of great run clubs on offer.
Call in the professionals
A run club, coach or training app can help you take your training to the next level. There are also a great range of apps that can help you on your mental fitness journey. Use an app like ‘Couch to 5km’ to help you get started and safely build up from walking to running.