Running Therapy brings clients outside year-round

Exercise is a proven stress-reliever — but exercise outside is much more effective for mental health. That’s why Minneapolitan Matt Miller launched Running Therapy this fall.

The eight-time marathoner (he recently finished a 104-mile run on the Superior Trail) discovered through his Master’s and Ph.D. studies at the University of Minnesota that the benefits of exercise are compounded outdoors. He said people who exercise outdoors consistently show bigger increases in self-esteem, memory retention and cognitive ability to problem-solve. They see better reductions in hostility and depression. The part of the brain that’s stimulated outdoors also more effectively processes past trauma, he said.

Minnesotans, in particular, see high rates of seasonal affective disorder, he said, with spikes in depression.

“For those people, to get out is crucial for vitality,” he said.

Miller meets clients at the Lake Harriet bandshell and other lakes and trails. He doesn’t do any mall-walking — it’s outdoor meetings, all year, regardless of the weather. He said clients need not worry about their physical abilities, however.

“Come as you are,” he said. “Whatever pace you choose is the right pace for that day.”

Miller landed on the concept for Running Therapy through his college running clubs.

“I realized that we tended to default into talking about pretty personal things while on the move,” he said. “There is something really cathartic about moving with people in nature.”

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