Wellness

The science behind mood-boosting cardio

running

Everyone says that the key to reducing stress is balance and exercise. Well, they’re right. Dental school is one of the most stressful, frustrating and nerve-wracking times in our lives. Without some sort of stress outlet there’s no way we’d make it. For some people, it’s pumping iron at the gym, power cleaning at Crossfit, or zenning out with some vinyasa. For me, it’s lacing up my trusty Saucony’s and hitting the trails or the pavement.

I began my on-again-off-again relationship with running in the 7th grade and feel that I owe many of my accomplishments to it. My freshman year of college I quit running because of a challenging course load. I found myself anxious, gaining weight and prematurely graying. Realizing the correlation between my stress levels and lack of running, I resumed my routine by signing up for a half marathon. Once I started training, my grades began to increase and my general state of mental health improved. Boom, done.

Once in dental school, it was apparent that as my mileage increased, so did my GPA. I saw my fellow athletes excelling in school and I couldn’t help but conclude that we were on to something. The age-old expression, “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon” can be both figuratively and literally applied to the journey through dental school. So, sign up for a race whether it be a 5k or the whole 26.2, strap on your shoes and get out and run!

Researchers support my claims of mood- and brain-boosting cardio. In a recent article published in Runners World magazine, it was noted that the infamous “runners high” is actually potent enough to significantly lift the mood of persons suffering from depression. They also found that exercise sharpens concentration, boosts sleep quality and enhances the memory. Running isn’t just a sport – it’s science!

New to running? Sure, it might be tough in the beginning, but as you get faster and stronger, I promise you’ll start to feel that legendary runners high.

Hate running? Maybe you’re doing it wrong. Make it a game and challenge yourself. Most dental students are a little competitive, at least with ourselves. Time yourself for a mile, or see how far you can run at once. Try to do even better next time!

Check out some resources for training plans or finding races near you:

~Alexandra Lindauer, Colorado ’17

Alexandra Lindauer

Ali is a third year student at the University of Colorado. Before dental school, she attended the University of Michigan where she received her Bachelor of Science in Evolutionary Anthropology. She also elected a gap year and worked as a dental assistant in a pediatric dental office. She serves as the Electronic Editor for Colorado ASDA, and is also a past executive officer of Delta Sigma Delta. Ali is an avid runner and is always training for the next big race. She also enjoys hiking, skiing, and traveling in her spare time.

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