Runfulness: the running secret that could change your life

Author: Kate Sellers

Read Time:   |  March 11, 2021

New research shows that running can boost our brain power in unexpected ways. Here's all you need to know about runfulness and how to achieve it yourself.

Have you heard of ‘runfulness’ before? We certainly hadn’t! It’s the term coined by a research team to describe that post-run state of mind where our creative thoughts can fly.

The new Europe-wide study was conducted by the team at Brooks Running to investigate what effect running can have on our creativity levels – and the results were astounding.

80% of the participants reported a clear decrease in stress during their run, with 40% also noting a decrease in focus. So far, so familiar – we all know how much better we feel after getting outside for a quick run. But the key findings are in what happens next: 9 out of 10 of the runners indicated that they think about things they usually wouldn’t as they run, with 80% of them saying that they’ve experienced transformative new ideas during a run.

Neuroscientists believe that it is that combination of reduced stress and decreased focus that causes us to enter a state of disconnection from the world and our worries – the runfulness effect.

So, how do we get in on that runfulness action ourselves? It’s not quite as simple as lacing up and heading out, says lead neuroscientist Professor Olivier Oullier. The study also revealed a series of steps to help us achieve this magical state of mind.

  1. Run in silence. Or, with music that doesn’t demand your attention. Listening to people talk or to songs that you don’t know will trigger curiosity, preventing you from disconnecting.
  2. Run alone. All but one study participant mentioned that they cannot reach a special state while running with others. This doesn’t mean you should always run alone, but a solo run will help you to get closer to runfulness.
  3. Wear comfortable clothing. 80% of the participants said that what they were wearing had an impact on their feelings of wellbeing. It is important that your running gear doesn’t distract you by rubbing or riding up.
  4. Avoid time pressure. Worrying about getting back home on time will stop you from relaxing – give yourself plenty of time before your next activity.
  5. Don’t force it. All the participants who mentioned reaching a different mental state when they ran said it was never intentional – head into your run with an open mind.

Brooks are over the moon at the results of the research. “We always knew that running is more than just building up your physique – this study shows that it can take you to a state of wellbeing that unlocks something inside you: new ideas, new ways of thinking, new opportunities,” explains Matthew Dodge, MD of Brooks.

In response to their findings, they have launched RunFund, hoping to give something back by rewarding transformative ideas inspired by runfulness. Ideas can be submitted for different categories, then a professional jury will pick five global winners to receive a donation of $100,000 to bring their idea to life, with an additional four runner-up prizes of $25,000. “We believe that people can find the power to change a day, a life, and even the world while they run,” says Matthew.

To find out more about RunFund, or to submit an idea, click here.

Written by

Kate Sellers

Kate Sellers

Kate is our Senior Digital Executive and a keen runner. She's also a qualified Personal Trainer and yoga teacher, so she knows her stuff about workouts, cross-training and stretching. She loves to combine running and exploring, so you'll often find her testing out the latest kit in exciting locations across the UK and beyond. Kate champions exercising for enjoyment. "Most of the year, you'll find me running for fun and wellbeing," she says. "That being said, I do still love the thrill of training for a race from time to time!"

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