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Think you have to run for ages to get any benefit? A new study shows that running for a short amount of time could help you beat a low mood. 

Things feel grim right now – the news is bleak with scandal and Omicron, the days are still getting shorter and, to top it off, we can’t even get excited about Christmas in case that’s cancelled too. In short, there’s not a lot that’s putting us in a good mood.

Let’s shake off some of that doom. Literally. Exercise is proven to be one of the most instant mood boosters, so getting up really is the best way to start feeling better. We can already feel the glare: how are you meant to feel motivated to exercise with everything else that’s going on? Well, some good news: you don’t need to sign up to a 45-minute HIIT workout or a 10k run to get those endorphins pumping. According to a new 2021 study, published in the journal Nature, it takes just 10 minutes of moderate-intensity running to improve your mood. 

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Researchers asked participants to run on a treadmill for 10 minutes at 50% of their max effort – a pretty moderate intensity. They found that there was a marked increase in both self-reported pleasure and arousal and an increase in activation of the prefrontal cortex – an area associated with inhibitory control and mood regulation.

Interestingly, the researchers compared their results to a similar study they had performed on the impact of cycling. In this earlier research, they found similarly enhanced cognition but no impact on mood. The unique dual benefit of running “may influence the brain in regulating stress, leading to mental health,” the researchers suggest. 

Just 10 minutes of running can improve your mood, according to a new study

While the study only used 26 participants, it is the beginning of understanding exactly how exercise improves our mood beyond just releasing endorphins. And it’s one of the first to consider how much – or rather, how little – we really need to see this impact.

So, what can we take from this? Firstly, that in a complicated world, your training doesn’t have to be. Sure, long runs or workouts have their place – particularly if you want to improve your physical fitness or you’re aiming for a specific goal. But sometimes, we just need to think about short-term mental health, and it’s then that these accessible, not-too-overwhelming sessions could help. 

The added bonus? “Running may be considered an exercise mode that benefits mood, which is an important factor for exercise adherence,” the researchers note. So, a better mood in the short term and more inclination towards long-term movement that reduces the risk of mental health disorders. We’d best lace-up and set that timer. 

Images: Getty

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