Running: the perfect pandemic panacea


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Sarah Michels

Restaurants, stores and universities are quickly being emptied in Kentucky, giving them an eerie atmosphere reminiscent of a zombie-apocalypse. However, the state’s parks, livelier than ever, are a different story.

As an avid runner, the masses of runners, walkers and bikers that are suddenly sharing the typically vacant paths with me is startling. As I pulled into E.P. Tom Sawyer’s busy parking lot yesterday, I wondered if there was an event going on that I hadn’t heard about.

But then I remembered—all events are cancelled.

The New York Times published a feature on this crisis-borne exercise boom, saying that running is “the perfect sport for a pandemic.” I’d have to agree. All you need are a pair of shoes, a little bit of motivation and a whole lot of patience. You can do it absolutely anywhere and anytime (although I’d recommend daylight hours for safety purposes).

I encourage everyone who has spent the last week binging way too many Netflix shows and quarantine snacks to give running a try. Even if you’ve convinced yourself in the past that running just isn’t meant for you. I promise, it is.

First, running will make you healthier. Without daily walks to class or gym sessions, your body will thank you for getting moving again. What’s more, light or moderate running boosts the immune system’s ability to fight off infections such as Covid-19. If you do get coronavirus, it may be milder or shorter in duration with a stronger immune system.

Whether it’s a short jog or hard distance run, running has many mental and emotional benefits besides the obvious physical ones. According to a Runner’s World article, running as little as 150 minutes a week, a little over 20 minutes a day, can have an effect similar to an antidepressant. When you run, your body releases hormones called endorphins that can help your body and brain create a stronger resistance to stress.

In the midst of the current Covid-19 crisis, when many are experiencing more stress, anxiety and/or depression than normal, running could be the perfect cure.

Running could also be the perfect excuse to get out of the house. Moving back in with your parents and siblings can be exasperating at times, and a little bit of solo exercise can give you the opportunity to work off your frustration in a constructive way.

Even if you live alone with no one to bother you, a break from screen-time is still a good idea. As a journalist, I always encourage keeping up with the news cycle, but it’s likely the current inundation of negativity in the news has built up an unbeneficial level of worry and stress that needs to be worked out of your system.

A little fresh air can do wonders.

In addition to all the aforementioned benefits of running, simply getting outside serves as an important reminder—despite humanity’s turmoil, the natural world still goes on as normal. When every aspect of our lives seems to be changing too quickly for anyone to adapt, the birds still sing, the creeks still run and the sun keeps shining.

That’s one benefit of running that your usual gym treadmill (or as us runners call it, the “dreadmill”) run could never give you.

Now is the perfect time to start running, or get back into it if you have some past experience. Visit your local parks—they’re still open. Even if you have to stay six feet apart, the communal aspect of all the runners, walkers and bikers exercising on the same paths and roads is still much better than staying home alone without human connection for weeks.

If you decide to follow my advice, don’t forget to wave hello to and encourage other runners. They may be just like you—trying to find some happiness and peace amidst a life-changing global pandemic.

And who knows? Maybe when this is all over you’ll have finally discovered that elusive “runner’s high” everyone is always talking about.