In modern history, there have been three major booms in American distance-running. The first was during the Great Depression, when 15 million Americans were unemployed. The second was in the early 1970s, when the U.S. was struggling to recover from the Cold War, Vietnam War, and a criminal president. The third was after the attacks of 9/11.

Why is it that running figures spike when American society plummets? Because running unites our two most primal impulses: fear and pleasure. Before humans were carving paintings into cave walls, we were perfecting the art of using our breath, mind, and muscles to propel ourselves over wild terrain. We had to run, in order to avoid being hunted and eaten (fear), and to impress new mates (pleasure).

As Christopher McDougall put it in his book Born to Run: “We run when we’re scared, and we run when we’re ecstatic”. Our bodies not only want to run, but they want to run fast. It’s in our genes; our inner child wants us to sprint around at breakneck speed. After all, how often do you see children walk politely over to the playground swings? Running allows us to channel this childish, primal enthusiasm.

COVID-19 is Making Us Run

Entrepreneur running during pandemic at dusk
Entrepreneur running during pandemic at dusk

Right now, a fourth running boom is going on around us. Since the first lockdowns in March, 13% of women and 15% of men have been running more. Use of the popular fitness app Strava has more than tripled. With gyms closed and organized sports cancelled, people have little alternative but to turn to outdoor exercise to stay healthy.

But the uncertainty caused by the Coronavirus pandemic is also a huge factor. We’re running more to distract and distance ourselves from the troubling global situation. It might seem that the current running boom stems from a place of fear, and—if so—can that really be beneficial?

But it’s also helping to spread pleasure in a time when pleasure has scarcely been scarcer. People who’ve hardly run in their lives are learning to love the process of lacing up their shoes, doing a few stretches and getting out for a jog.

For many, it’s been therapeutic. It’s been a way to break up long days stuck behind a desk on Zoom calls, or to see friends from other households. The Covid pandemic and consequent lockdowns have reignited our primal impulses, and we should all put such instincts to good use.

That doesn’t have to mean long-distance running. Some people prefer walks, finding them ideal for self-reflection and unleashing creativity. It doesn’t matter which activity you choose, as long as you do make a choice. Running, walking, swimming, skipping, cycling…all have their benefits.

Below are a few advantages to running, in case you’re in need of motivation.

Benefits of Running During the Pandemic

Entrepreneur running on track field
Entrepreneur running on track field
Physical Benefits:
  • it boosts our immune systems
  • it raises levels of “good” cholesterol
  • it reduces the risk of breast cancer (for women), strokes & heart disease
  • it strengthens our muscles
  • it improves our cardiovascular fitness
  • it helps us lose weight
Mental Benefits:
  • it relieves stress
  • it secretes mood-boosting hormones
  • it builds confidence and a sense of achievement
  • it increases productivity and creativity
  • it allows us to socialise and feel part of a team (if running with someone)
  • it helps to fight depression

For entrepreneurs, being at peak sharpness—both physically and mentally—is essential for long-term success. Incorporating daily outdoor exercise allows us to use these benefits to our advantage. It allows us to channel positivity and excel at our most important projects. Is that worth the mere hour of your day it takes to exercise?

Let us know below what sort of exercise you’ve enjoyed most during lockdown.

This article originally published on GREY Journal.