Suicide is the single biggest killer of British males under the age of 45. In 2012, 4590 British men took their own lives.

I’m a 44 year old male and found this truly disturbing. Most of these men will probably either have kids, a wife/partner or living parents.

That’s three generations of grief.

These men need professional help and some will still be alive because of the drugs prescribed to them but for some people who lack self esteem, are low or depressed there is mounting evidence that exercise and particularly running can be beneficial.

53 million prescriptions were issued for antidepressants last year nearly double that of a decade ago.

Depression is related to low levels of certain neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine, both of which can be stimulated by exercise on the sympathetic nervous system. Also important are endorphins; chemicals released by the pituitary gland in response to stress or pain. They bind to receptors in the brain to inhibit pain and promote feelings of euphoria.

For us runners this is the “runners high”. Interestingly they talk of a runners high and not a cyclists high or a tennis high. There is some anecdotal evidence that running reflects the natural movement patterns of our body. We haven’t evolved over all those years to cycle or hit a ball with racket but as a species we have always run.

In 2000, scientists at Duke University Medical Centre, North Carolina tested exercise against the antidepressant Zoloft and concluded that exercise seemed to do a better job of keeping the symptoms from coming back after the depression lifted.

In Sweden, researchers at the Karolinska Institute have discovered that physical activity purges the blood of a substance which accumulates during stress and can be harmful to the brain. Their study found that skeletal muscle appears to have a detoxification effect that, when activated can protect the brain from mental illness. They demonstrated that people who do not exercise are more sluggish, depressed and more prone to disease.

One high-profile advocate of running as a treatment for depression is snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan. 

“Running is the best therapy I’ve ever had…..Running is my drug. To be honest, drugs and alcohol used to be my drug, but now I’ve got the healthiest addiction going. Running is what has helped me fight my demons, win five world snooker championships and cope with all the crap life has thrown at me”.

 

Liverpool legend Stan Collymore has used Twitter to share his experiences of depression…..

 

“I keep myself in really good nick, I run 10k every week day, and only not go to the gym or exercise at weekends, when i commentate on football for talkSPORT. The running I find really has helped massively, as I’m sure you guys that suffer who exercise find, the tangible release of calm, and ‘being on top of things’ powers your internal dynamo, and keeps the black dog from the door.”

 

I’ve been told for years that my forties are going to be the best years, the peak earning years, career defining years, most confident years and the best years for sex. All told to me by the Boomers, “the baby boomers” who are now retiring; our parents, who are still earning, still working, really confident and still probably having sex!

Not all of you will run, some can’t, some think they can’t and some have been humiliated by the cross country runs at school. Most of us can walk and if you can walk try walking quicker, maybe jog for 30secs.

As I write this, people who don’t run are starting their training for the London Marathon and in 20 weeks in mid April most of them will have run 26 miles!

It’s not for everyone but it could be…

 

Thanks to:

www.thecalmzone.net

www.mensrunninguk.co.uk (August 2015)