5 ways that running in the sun can improve your wellness

It’s official – running makes us happy. That’s according to new research published in the journal Cognition and Emotion, which shows that a 30-minute jog makes gloomy folk feel less sad and eases depressive symptoms. But if you’re anything like us, you’ll feel even more upbeat about running when it comes with a dose of sunshine and a smidgen of blue sky. Perhaps it’s the glistening sea or maybe the packed British parks, but when summer arrives, we’re suddenly full of great intentions to run regularly and jog to escape the air-conditioned office. In fact, when the weather is warm, it certainly seems a lot easier to stay motivated to run. And that’s not the only plus point about summertime striding. The latest science shows that there are oodles of health benefits to be had by hitting the trails, sand or tarmac this summer. You’ve just got to be willing to go out and get them!

Here’s everything you need to know to maximise on this season’s running regime.

  • During the peak of the British summer, the sun rises as early as 4am, which gives you plenty of daylight hours for a morning jog. And as luck would have it, science shows that cognitive thought is enhanced after exercise. One such study from Leiden University in The Netherlands shows that cardiovascular activity like running or cycling improves our ability to ‘think flexibly’, boosting creative thinking. Make the most of these benefits by running in the morning before the day begins – you’ll be the office brains before you know it!

  • Want to boost your memory? Take your shoes off. Whether you run on the beach or over dry grass in a park, running sans shoes has been shown to lead to better cognitive performance. Researchers from the University of North Florida in America report a 16 percent increase in working memory performance after running barefoot, despite there being no significant increase in memory when running in shoes. Scrap your trainers and you might finish that run smarter than when you started. Nifty.

  • While the winter may have joggers heading for an indoor treadmill, the summer convinces runners to seek out Britain’s beautiful green spaces. And this is great news for the wellbeing of urbanites. According to a study by the University of Exeter, 94 percent of city dwellers reported an improvement to their mental health after exercising in an outdoor space such as a park, nature trail or garden. And further data from the University of Essex reports that it’s not just urban folk who benefit from green exercise, as just five minutes of outdoor exercise can boost anyone’s mood and self-esteem. Now, which way to the nearest park?

  • Sure, we’re not suggesting that you run in the midday sun – that’s just silly – but science does show that training in the heat could improve your cool-weather performance. Scientists from the University of Oregon in the US got competitive cyclists to ride at an easy pace in a heated room and discovered that heat acclimatisation improved their cool-weather performance by between four and eight percent. While the study took place in a controlled lab, the scientists noted that the findings may be similar for competitive runners and other endurance athletes. However, experts recommend that you adapt to the heat gradually, doing so over multiple slow and easy sessions. Overheating can be dangerous, so proceed with extreme caution.

  • Without the chilly winds of winter, running by Britain’s waterways, such as the sea, lakes and rivers, really appeals. And, as luck would have it, ‘blue exercise’ (the term scientists have given to exercise that takes place by a water feature) is really good for the soul. Research shows that the sound of waves can have such a profound effect on the brain that it lulls us into a deep sense of relaxation. The sea air is also charged with healthy negative ions that balance levels of the happy hormone, serotonin, lowering stress and depressive moods. Hooray!


Health & Wellbeing