New study on sporting behaviours during lockdown reveals more people are running for mental benefits

Amid the confinement and isolation of lockdown, the UK has fallen in love with running – that is according to a new study by footwear brand ASICS.

And it is not just because of the physical benefits. The study of 14,000 regular exercisers across 12 countries found that two-thirds (67%) say exercise helps them to cope mentally when faced with challenging situations like the one we are in now as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, while eight in 10 (78%) runners say that being active is making them feel saner and more in control. A similar number (82%) say running is playing a key role in helping them clear their mind.

“Despite the lockdown and social distancing measures, exercise and running in particular have become central to many people’s daily lives,” says Linda van Aken, VP Running, ASICS EMEA. “Our study’s findings prove that a run is much more than just a run, especially in times of crisis. It’s a way for people to put aside the mental pressures and challenges of this pandemic and feel free.”

Exercise and mental health researcher Dr Brendon Stubbs, who is based at King’s College London, says: “As one of the first multi-country studies, the results demonstrate that during lockdown, running has become a lifeline for many people to boost their physical and mental wellbeing.

“These findings support previous evidence which has demonstrated that regular exercise is effective to prevent and treat mental health conditions.

“Overall, the study by ASICS reinforces what we instinctively know: physical activity makes us feel better and never has there been a more important time to become active and experience the mental health benefits from movement.”

The study also found that more than a third (36%) of people globally and 43% in the UK are exercising more now than they were before the Covid-19 pandemic began, despite most sports being brought to a standstill by social distancing measures.

According to the results, runners across the board are keen to keep their active habits going when the crisis is over, too. Nearly three-quarters of UK runners (72%) say they want to continue running as much as they are now after the Covid-19 pandemic comes to an end, while of those who only took up running after the coronavirus crisis started, nearly two thirds (62%) globally say they plan on sticking with it in future.

ASICS hopes to help the world continue its love of running by launching a series of initiatives aimed at keeping runners active and connected.

They are calling on runners of all levels to share their stories of how it has helped them via their #RunToFeel campaign, while the brand says its research is ongoing to better inform upcoming ASICS innovations and initiatives including a new virtual running format in September.

Runners can learn more about #RunToFeel at asics.com/mk/run-to-feel

The British Milers’ Club also recognises the importance of running on mental health and has dedicated fundraising from its latest race series – the BMC 3km virtual time trial – on donations for the charity MIND. Read more here.

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