Healthcare workers are some of the most strained professionals, both mentally and physically. According to mental health reviews by medical researchers on NCBI, 89% of healthcare workers have reported psychological concerns within the last two years. This is directly linked to pressing national epidemics and the global pandemic, which has battered the healthcare system. If left unattended, these concerns could cause serious damage to individual wellness and nationwide healthcare.

Fortunately, there are ways that healthcare workers can address their mental health concerns. As a free and natural holistic activity, running can drastically improve overall wellbeing and target specific mental health concerns. From fighting off mental exhaustion to uplifting moods, here are three of the top benefits running can impart to healthcare workers:

1. Running can stave off burnout

Burnout is a very real dilemma among all professionals, but especially among healthcare workers. As a matter of fact, data presented by telehealth provider Wheel reveals that, ironically, mental health professionals are among the most burned out. Since 2020, about 78% of psychiatrists and 90% of counselors have reported feeling burned out. This is a stark comparison to pre-COVID rates which were between 21% to 61%. As such it’s essential for healthcare workers to find healthy outlets. Running is one of the best options to stave off burnout since aerobic exercises can help recover from brain exhaustion. A 2021 study elaborated that running offers a cognitive regeneration strategy, which helps improve overall function. Even just 30 minutes of running is said to enhance cognitive flexibility, which can help those who feel mentally overworked.

2. Running can uplift moods

Since the start of the pandemic two years ago, healthcare workers have experienced rising rates of depression. Today, global surveys indicate that around 63% of all healthcare professionals feel anxious and sad. Therefore, it’s important to find outlets that can help stabilize these moods. With running, healthcare workers can benefit from the “runner’s high” phenomenon. Described by Science Daily as the result of dopamine surges during running, experiencing a runner’s high can drastically improve a person’s mood. Specifically, running is said to create feelings of euphoria and motivation. Studies have even proven that running can relieve mood dips with the same efficacy as medication. This can be extremely beneficial, especially for professionals in high-stress fields like healthcare workers.

3. Running can improve sleep hygiene

Healthcare workers are subject to demanding situations that often leave them with insomnia. Worldwide, over 34% of those in the medical field have said they suffer from poor sleep which also impacts their mental and physical wellbeing. As explained by wellness resource Medical News Today, lackluster sleep hygiene can even cause a markedly higher risk for chronic disease. This includes depression, cancer, obesity, and cardiovascular diseases. Thankfully, although running can’t fix your sleep schedule, it can improve sleep quality. Since running is a form of aerobic exercise, it can help burn fat cells that may influence snoring. Since running also encourages the release of happy hormones, it can help calm your mind. This makes it easier to fall asleep. Lastly, running can also help release deep sleep chemicals which can enhance your sleep cycle.

Healthcare workers are the backbone of our society, especially in these trying times. As such, it’s critical to introduce and explore healthy and life-enhancing activities like running. Of course, running isn’t some magic cure for mental health. To reap its benefits, you need to be consistent with your training. Luckily, experts suggest that more long-term benefits can be experienced after just a few weeks of regular running. As professionals who are already on their feet a lot, medical professionals can look forward to a healthier and happier life with running.

For more about running and healthcare, please read our post on the Best Shoes For Nurses.