Researchers Say Run Clubs are “Therapy”

Nike Run Club

Accessible to all, social fitness is a salve.

What’s happening: A new study suggests regular group running sessions are as effective as antidepressants in treating depression and anxiety.

Over 16 weeks, researchers compared outcomes of patients taking SSRI drugs against patients practicing running-based therapy.

  • Across both groups, ~44% of people showed improvement.
  • In the running group, patients improved weight, waist circumference, blood pressure, and heart function; the antidepressant group worsened in those measures.
  • 82% adhered to SSRI treatment, but only 52% completed the prescribed fitness protocol.

Summarizing the findings, researchers say exercise is an effective and often preferable treatment, albeit harder to stick to. So, beyond prescribing, people will need social support.

Group gains. A potential solution, social fitness provides the push needed to promote consistency. And, it’s gaining traction — to the benefit of health and brands’ bottom lines.

Targeting digital, Strava and Nike Run Club recently synced to encourage community sharing. Meanwhile, young companies have leveraged IRL, community-first approaches to launch.

  • Bandit, an activewear brand born from NYC’s run club culture, established its own Greenpoint Runners group that meets weekly at its store.
  • Tracksmith’s Boston flagship hosts regular group runs and has a built-in lounge, locker room, and physical therapy office.
  • Set Active organized a group walk with influencer Tinx as part of its West Village store opening strategy.
  • Hoka, Alo, Gymshark, and others have sponsored walks for City Girls Who Walk, an Instagram-born women’s group.

Elsewhere, Vuori’s leaning heavily into community events as it eyes a 2024 IPO, most recently partnering on an experiential marketing tour with low-impact fitness company Pvolve.

Takeaway: Free of cost and adverse effects, run clubs-as-therapy could prove valuable in unwinding the mounting mental health crisis. And, brands can help the movement by hosting activities that connect like-minded consumers.

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