Running Your Way to Better Mental Health

We all know the physical benefits of a Half Marathon or 5K training regimen, but what about running’s effects on mental health?

Barb Johnson-Giese, LCSW, behavioral health coordinator at Ministry Door County Medical Center, says exercise is a key component to maintaining and improving mental health. Research shows people who exercise regularly benefit from a positive boost in mood and lower rates of depression.

What’s more, the training process itself can benefit athletes’ mental health, especially during the dark days of winter and Door County’s late-coming spring.

“There are many runners who look forward to this event as the kick-off to the silent sport season,” says Myles Dannhausen, assistant race director for the Door County Half Marathon. “Wisconsin winters can be mentally tough, and events like this can be huge for pulling people through them.”

The “runner’s high” athletes often describe is real. Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, natural painkillers that also trigger positive feelings. Regular exercise has been proven to not only reduce stress and anxiety, but improve sleep and boost self-esteem. Runners who train with a group have the added benefit of social connection – also a proven factor in preventing depression.

The scenic beauty of Peninsula State Park adds another level to this natural approach to mental health. A recent study in the Journal of Environmental Science & Technology showed green exercise (exercise in the presence of nature) can lead to positive mental health outcomes too.

“There are so many reasons why Ministry supports silent sporting events,” says Johnson-Giese, “and improved community mental health is just one of them.”


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“Like running in a cathedral in the woods.”

Tom Held -Silent Sports magazine

“Once again you put on an awesome race. I have ran all 8 years, I saved all my shirts and this is a must run race. Thanks for all the effort.”

Carol Mulinex

“The Door County Half Marathon is my favorite race of the year, every year. I love it.”

Jes Borland

“All aspects of this event are first class…. The best scenery, most challenging course to be found. Great job Door County Half crew A+. See you in 2016.” 

Scott Luchterhand

“I have run several races – and quite honestly this is the one of the best supported run ever. You do an EXCELLENT JOB on all levels. The support is amazing. The volunteers exceptional. I have ZERO complaints or suggestions.”

Sara Frizelle

“I have done a few half marathons around the midwest and this is by far the best. The organization and communication is fantastic and so are the facilities and race perks. The route is also ideal: starting flat, allowing for the body to acclimate ; followed by a steep incline and then down hill once the body gets a little fatigued. I love it!”

Margaret Pennoyer     

“I’ve raced all over the world and The Door County Half Marathon is one of my favorites.  It’s very well organized, it’s in the heart of beautiful and peaceful Door County, and the course rolls through some of the most picturesque half marathon miles in the world.”

Jenny Hadfield – Runner’s World

A must-do race! This popular destination race takes full advantage of the natural beauty of Door County, Wis.

Competitor Magazine


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