The Benefits of Running
Running is one of the most popular sports around the globe and is something everyone’s, at least, somewhat familiar with. What many may not know are the numerous benefits that running offers us. This isn’t limited to physical rewards, either.
When I first started running at a young age—before many of you were born—I thought it was solely good for fitness endurance. You know, to help me run for longer.
While this is true, little did I know that there are some other amazing benefits to running. I bet you didn’t realize some of these, either!
Top 10 Benefits of Running
Running comes with even more benefits than we have time for today. What I can say is that they range from physical to psychological and also some that are a matter of convenience.
If you’re in a rush and want the shortlist, check these out, but if I were the nitty-gritty, scan below:
- Aids weight loss.
- Increases bone density.
- Boosts confidence.
- Improves mental health.
- Prevents high blood pressure.
- Strengthens immunity.
- Increases lung capacity.
- Do it anywhere.
- Totally legal high.
1. Aids Weight Loss
Are you looking to lose some weight?
Basic science tells us that to shed some pounds, we need to burn more calories than we consume. The good news is running burns calories at a higher rate than many other forms of physical fitness. This includes jumping rope, bicycling and swimming, among others.
Not only that, but there’s the “afterburn effect,” as well. This refers to the energy our bodies continue to use after we exercise and when we’ve returned to a state of rest. For high-intensity runners, this effect could be even more rewarding.
Maybe you’re a newbie, and full-on sprints sound like a nightmare. Don’t worry; it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You could sprinkle some high-intensity bursts into your normal routine and see where it takes you. Just make sure that you have the right footwear.
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2. Increases Bone Density
When we reach our 30s and 40s, this becomes a real concern. To prevent osteoporosis, we have to make sure our bones are in good shape, and one of the best ways to combat the condition is through regular exercise.
Weight-bearing activities, in particular, are shown to have a great impact. For example, in one study conducted on men from the ages of 19 to 45, researchers noted the runners had better spine BMD (bone mineral density) than the cyclists.
Do you already have osteoporosis? I recommend that you check with your doctor before taking up a new running routine.
3. Boosts Confidence
It might sound cheesy, but hear me out. The media is always telling us, ladies and gents, that we just aren’t enough. This bombardment can easily stop us dead in our tracks from taking better care of ourselves or laying down some solid goals to get there.
When we take up a new exercise, it’s never easy. Practice does, however, make perfect, and over time, we reap the rewards of sticking it out.
There’s nothing that feels quite as good as starting something new (in our adult years, no less) and watching ourselves improve at it. It’s never too late.
So why not grab yourself some running sneakers and head out for a five-minute run? That’s my challenge to you. It doesn’t have to be anything more than that, but the fact you did it is an excellent confidence booster.
4. Improves Mental Health
Our confidence isn’t the only factor that gets a boost from running. Even the insurance companies are talking about it!
Do you suffer from any of the following? The chances are that running could have a positive impact on these:
To be clear, I’m not claiming that running is a “cure-all,” by any means. There are many circumstances at play where the above points are concerned. However, a regular run won’t hurt, and there’s plenty of evidence to back that up.
Also, given the issues we’re facing with the COVID crisis right now, it’s always wise to find additional ways to protect your mental health. Click here for some additional tips.
5. Builds Endurance
One of the beautiful things about running is that doing it on-the-regular can prepare you for other physical activities you enjoy.
Maybe you like hiking with your family or taking a swim once summer hits? If you’re going after your running routine, these activities could be much easier and more enjoyable for you.
You may even be able to join in the kid’s soccer game and not feel totally exhausted by the end of it. It’ll feel great, I’m sure of it.
6. Prevents High Blood Pressure
Please don’t get freaked out by this, but Americans are increasingly at risk for cardiovascular conditions. The AHA—American Heart Association—states that around 46 percent of the population already suffers from hypertension—high blood pressure. As you probably know, this is one of the leading causes of heart disease.
The good news? Regular exercise can have a profound impact. According to the Mayo Clinic, it takes around one to three months of running before you’ll see an effect on blood pressure. Given the long-term results, I reckon it’s worth giving it a shot.
If you already have a chronic heart condition or high blood pressure, consult your doctor before running, to be on the safe side.
7. Strengthens Immunity
Now, I’m not talking about intense marathons when I talk about running. Even walking for between 20 and 30 minutes a day can strengthen your immunity.
A regular running routine may help flush out your respiratory system from harmful bacteria, for starters. This could lower your risk of things like the common cold.
Furthermore, the rise in body temperature that occurs once you’re running can prevent new bacteria from growing in the first place.
8. Increases Lung Capacity
This refers to the amount of oxygen our bodies can use at any given time.
Our hearts have to work harder to pump oxygen when we’re receiving less of it. In short, our lung capacity affects our overall health and longevity. Regular aerobic exercise, such as running, can boost our capacity by five to 15 percent.
If you suffer from low stamina, have difficulty breathing or experience regular respiratory infections, your lung capacity might be low. While it could be nothing serious, you don’t want to run before clearing it with a health professional.
9. Do It Anywhere
That’s right. It’s one of my favorite benefits of running because you have a variety of ways to go about it. For those that aren’t big on the gym, you can run in the comfort of your neighborhood or at the local trail—bonus: no cost.
Maybe you prefer having a treadmill in the house where you and your partner can both use it conveniently?
Do you travel for work? You won’t have to miss your chosen exercise class while you’re away. Throw your running shoes in your bag, and make it happen when you’re on-the-go.
10. Totally Legal High
No, “totally legal high” isn’t a typo. If you’re already a runner, you know exactly what we’re talking about. Running can get you high—some describe it as “euphoria” or “bliss.”
Research points to this high as being similar to that experienced when ingesting THC, which is the chemical in marijuana that’s responsible for the same.
It could be one of the most harmless, rewarding and easily obtainable highs out there. What’s not to love about that?
Tips for Running
How you approach a running regime depends on you, your experience and your goals. It’ll look quite different for everyone, but these tried-and-true tips can make or break success:
One Step at a Time
This is mainly for all the newbies out there. Start slow, for crying out loud. There’s no need to bang the pavement hardcore from the get-go.
For example, it could mean a brisk walk for 10 minutes a day until you’re ready to ramp it up. Eventually, you’ll start jogging and then running. A gentle approach means less chance for burning out or injuring yourself right off the bat.
And yes, I talk from experience, being one of those loons that decided to try and blitz a 10k without building up to that distance.
Don’t Forget to Stretch
We shouldn’t only stretch before we work out, but afterward, as well. It can help prevent soreness and injury.
So, as tempting as it is to throw yourself in the grass after a long run outside, take five minutes and stretch it out first. Your body will say “thank you” later.
You’ll see that some runners advise to only stretch if that’s what your body is used to. The basis behind this is that running will stretch those muscles anyway, so you don’t want to overstretch.
While I do agree to this sentiment to a point, if you’re a beginner, it’s best to do some light stretching.
Consider investing in a foam roller to help you with your stretching routine.
Stick With a Routine
It sounds boring, I know. But without a regular exercise routine, it’s easy to procrastinate or prioritize other recreational activities. That’s not to say those aren’t important, but our health does rank up there at the top of our list.
Running every other day is a great place to start. Give yourself a general timeframe and set yourself some realistic goals, so you don’t end up disappointed.
Have a hard time with routines, in general? Call on a workout buddy or your partner to help you stay motivated. It could be that they give you a ring to pump you up or maybe they’ll join in, as well.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
It’s easy to forget, but drinking plenty of water is a crucial component of a successful workout. Doing so gives cushioning to our joints and helps regulate our body temperature, among other factors. Did you know we generate up to 20 times more heat when we’re running than when we’re at rest?
We should be sipping on this beautiful resource throughout the day, of course. But when it comes to your runs, avoid drinking your entire bottle all in one go. Instead, aim for around 2 cups before and after, with some sips during your run, too.
This is yet another tip that many may throw to the wayside, but disregarding it would be foolish. Do you like to run outside? Listen up.
Things like poor weather conditions or evening runs can put you at risk of traffic accidents. Pay attention, and wear reflective clothing, so you easily stand out on the road.
Watch out for uneven paved areas, ditches or slopes around your favorite trails, too. Too often, I’ve slipped and taken a fall because I was lost in my tunes when running.
Running is an entire workout culture, in and of itself. There’s no way I can cover them all, but just in case, here are a few commonly asked questions I get:
How Many Miles Should I Run a Day?
Doing it a small amount each day certainly won’t hurt. The overall benefits of running top off at around 4.5 hours weekly, though.
If you choose to do it every single day, keep your sessions short and manageable. This equates to around 15 to 20 minutes per session at a moderate pace of approximately 0.6 miles per hour.
What’s Runner’s Stomach?
It’s estimated that around 30 to 90 percent of runners or endurance athletes experience it from time to time. This refers to a slew of symptoms that can occur during a run, like nausea, an urge to use the toilet and abdominal cramping.
Runner’s stomach happens for a few different reasons, one of them being the decrease in blood flow to your digestive system. With all that additional blood flowing to your heart, you can end up with an irritated stomach, which you don’t want mid-run.
Avoid eating or drinking—except water—right before your run. Some also recommend probiotics and dietary changes.
Do Runners Live Longer?
Some studies do point to running as a means for longevity, if only for the fact that it lowers heart disease.
That doesn’t mean you want to go full-force and overexert yourself in the hopes you’re adding years to your life. If you’re looking for some motivation, though, your heart will be in better shape for it.
How Fast Should I Run a Mile for My Age?
Good question! This depends on your current level of fitness, age and sex. There are some charts available, though, for us to get a rough estimate.
Here are two examples for you. A 35-year-old man should run a mile in around 10 minutes, 53 seconds. A 50-year-old woman may clock in at approximately 13 minutes, 20 seconds.
Run for the Benefits
The benefits of running far outweigh the enticing scenario of staying planted on the couch. Don’t get me wrong, some good ol’ relaxation from time to time is definitely needed.
But, given all the advantages it has to offer, I can’t help but feel compelled to pick up my running routine again. Whether you need to lose weight or lower your stress levels, a quick run around the block may serve you well.