Running Through the Holidays

Running Through the Holidays

Lisa Jhung
Writer and Author of Running That Doesn't Suck: How To Love Running (Even If You Think You Hate It)
November 15, 2023

Sticking with it brings good tidings of comfort and joy

While the holidays can bring joy, they can also bring sorrow. While gathering with family can bring fulfillment, it can also bring chaos. And while keeping off unwanted pounds from extra helpings of stuffing or eggnog can be a goal of running, it shouldn’t be the only goal. And it certainly isn’t the only benefit.

Maintaining consistency with running through the holidays is great for both body and soul. With increased to-do lists, hosting or visiting friends or family, and everything else that throws us out of our regular routines between Thanksgiving and January 1, it may be tempting to let your running fall to the wayside. But It’s because of all that can be hectic through the holidays that continuing your running is so important.

The mental benefits of running, in my mind, far exceed the physical. Studies dating back to 1980 have explored the relationship between running and how it affects our mood, citing “less depression,” “less confusion,” and “more vigor” among runners than non-runners.

More recently, a 2019 study looked at “Within-person Relationships” (meaning, relationships with oneself)and found that runners noted higher senses of well-being (measured in terms of self-esteem, life satisfaction, self-efficacy, meaning of life, and affect) in relation to how often and how far they ran each week.  

man running in snow

And then there’s the self-study you likely conduct every time you go for a run. It’s fairly easy to conclude that you feel mentally fresher and more content overall when you return from a run than if you didn’t go at all.

Other mental/emotional benefits to continuing to run through the holidays include: 

Time by yourself

This can be the prescription for maintaining your sanity during the busy holiday season.

Time with loved ones

If you have family or friends who could or would join you on a walk-run outing, sharing miles can be wonderfully bonding.

Sense of accomplishment

In a time where it can feel like you’re never getting enough done, making it out for a 30-minute run or walk-run can give you a great sense of accomplishment.

Celebrating small wins can have positive effects on mental health.

Sense of pride

As you go about the rest of your holiday schedule, whatever that looks like, you can carry in your back pocket that knowledge that you’re continuing to get out and do something good for your body and mind: run.

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Okay, the physical health benefits are also worth noting. Aside from the obvious plusses of muscular and cardiovascular health, running provides you with that good dose of endorphins that will also stay with you long after you’ve finished a run. Complete your run outdoors (something I’m a huge proponent of doing, in just about any weather conditions), and you also get a healthy dose of Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and ward off osteoporosis. The impact of running also helps strengthen bones to ward off the disease.

Running outside also exposes you to the sights and sounds of nature, even if you’re running in an urban park or sidewalk. Birds, trees, the sun, even the snow can create a mini forest bathing experience, which has been proven to lower stress and improve overall mood.

Finding time to fit in a run during the busy holiday season can be challenging. Remind yourself that your running is as much for your mental health as it is for your physical well being. Positive mental health during the holidays - and any time - is the greatest gift you can give to yourself.

Everyone around you benefits as well.

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