I Run! I don’t jog. I run 6 miles a day most days and I do those miles in 8 to 8.5 minutes a mile. Sometimes I press
myself and work down into the 7 minute mile range. If it sounds like I am bragging a bit, I could be accused and would probably be guilty. I started running 44 years ago for one reason. I was lot better at running than I would ever be at dieting. It was a good strategy.
Along the way I would encourage my children to run and would run with them when they were getting ready for soccer or basketball. I think one daughter started running with me in elementary school just because it was the one time in the day that she could have her busy physician father to herself.
This past weekend, I ran with my oldest son and it was sort of like a “what goes around comes around” nightmare for me. Charlie and I have been training for a half marathon in Disneyworld in November. He is now in far better shape than I am. I have been working myself back into shape after a year of injuries and this weekend was to be my first 10 miler in 6 months.
Charlie can run in the six minute range and I can, if I work hard, run in the 7:45 range. It was 5 miles out and 5 miles
back and we were doing it in 8:20s. Charlie ran out ahead and I started thinking that somewhere along 8 miles I would just stop and walk the rest of the way. But, Charlie came back and when we got to 8miles, he started doing the same
things to me that I did to him to keep him running when he was 13. “Real men puke at the finish line.” That is what I told him and that is what he told me as he reminded me of saying it. And, I finished all 10 miles. It reminds me that we
should be very careful of the things we say to our children as they grow up. It can come back to haunt.
But what does this have to do with Biblical Counseling and depression. Well, Medscape published a news item in September that said that running can help people with depression. In fact the article quoted from the Chocrane Collaboration published by Wiley, in which researchers looked at people who struggled with depression and were helped either with medication, psychological counseling, or running. ( See below for citation)
All three seemed to help. Running helped just as much as medicine or psychological counseling but no more. Of course there are significant advantages to running over medication in the realm of cost and side effects. As I look back over my running career, I am certain there were times in my life that going out and running 10 miles helped me deal with real struggles that I faced.
I ran mostly at lunch time when I could and once the group I worked for came to me and suggested that running at lunch time was just too disruptive and I should do it some other time. I gently but firmly informed the messenger that my lunch hour was mine to do with as I wished and that I would continue to run. But, more importantly, I suggested he go talk with my nurse Sandy. She would tell him that she wanted me to go run at noon! It made the second half of the day much better for her if I burned off some of my nervous energy!
As a young physician I remember reading an article that listed the suggestions that an older physician made to his
depressed patients. After returning to work, reading a chapter in the gospel of Luke, attending church, the old doctor told the strugglers to go walk 2 miles a day. It reminds me of Paul in Philippians 4:9 when he tells us, “the things you
have learned, and received, and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Paul was telling people who were struggling with worry to get back to doing the normal things of the Christian life.
And so, I think I can say that in some of the 44 years that I was running, I was running away from worry and sadness. I
know a couple of years ago on one of the darkest days of my life, I ran. And, I only ran because I knew that if I was going to make it through the struggle, it would be because God enabled me to keep on breathing, and keep on running.
So Science tells that running helps depression. I suggest vigorous physical exercise to any depressed counselee who
is physically able to do it. It helps. When combined with counsel that comes from the Word, it can be life-saving.
Exercise for depression (Review) Cooney GM, Dwan K, Greig CA, Lawlor DA, Rimer J, Waugh FR,
McMurdo M, Mead GE, This is a reprint of a Cochrane review, prepared and maintained
by The Cochrane Collaboration and published in The Cochrane Library 2013, Issue 9 http://www.thecochranelibrary.com