Exercise is a great way for people to take mental health improvement into their own hands. Don’t get us wrong: working out is not a cure-all for mental illness and is not a definitive treatment option. But it allows people who suffer from mental health disorders to be proactive, to take control of a potentially dangerous situation. Perhaps most importantly, it sets into motion chemicals in the brain that induce feelings of euphoria which combat feelings of despair.

The notion that exercise is a constructive way to counterbalance feelings of, for example, depression or anxiety is rooted in evidence-based science. Studies have been published that show a relationship between increased physical activity and low rates of major depressive disorder.

One such recent study was co-authored by Karmel W. Choi, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Massachusetts General Hospital, and Jordan Smoller, MD, ScD, director of the Mass. General Hospital Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit and a professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

“On average, doing more physical activity appears to protect against developing depression,” Dr. Choi said in a statement. “Any activity appears to be better than none; our rough calculations suggest that replacing sitting with 15 minutes of a heart-pumping activity like running, or with an hour of moderately vigorous activity, is enough to produce the average increase in accelerometer data that was linked to a lower depression risk.”

Related: Save the Date: Our 5th Annual Frozen Yogurt 5K is on August 25

According to Yale scientist Adam Mourad Chekroud, PhD, exercise is a key opportunity for individuals to develop protective factors against depression, maybe even more so than prescription medications. In fact, he says “Antidepressants are not universally effective, and many patients undergo a trial-and-error process to find the right regimen. Psychological therapies are about equally effective and can be expensive and difficult to access.”

A big part of this is the so-called runner’s high. This sensation is caused by a rush of pleasure-causing endorphins in the brain, in addition to endocannabinoids, a chemical that acts like naturally synthesized THC (the main chemical component in marijuana).

Cardio workouts can also generate new brain cells and improve cognitive performance, which has been linked to low rates of Alzheimer’s. It also has the added benefit of providing an outlet for stress, a time for self-reflection, and, especially on sunny days, an opportunity for your body to produce Vitamin D.

For these reasons and more, Gándara has hosted a 5K road race in Northampton for the past four years. This year, on August 25, will be our 5th annual Frozen Yogurt 5K.

We run to not only give participants the chance to experience all the health benefits that accompany running, but also to raise awareness around mental illness, substance use disorders, their stigmas, and the various services and treatments available to those in need.

Register today! Kids 12 and under run for free, and all runners—and walkers—get a free GoBerry Frozen Yogurt. Sign up by August 14 and you’ll be receive a free t-shirt. Registration on race day will be available beginning at 8:00 a. m. Credit and debit cards will be accepted. The staging area is on the Courthouse Lawn across from the Calvin Theater. For GPS purposes please use 19 King Street Northampton, MA.

Leashed pets are also welcome to run for free.

Our 5K is officially timed by RaceWire. Medals will be awarded to the top three finishers in each of the following categories: Male, Female, 12 and under and 50 and over.

For any questions regarding the event—or for those interested in having their business sponsor this year’s race­—please contact Lisa Brecher at 413-296-5256 or lbrecher@gandaracenter.org.