Running is an activity you can take up with a little or no preparation, as all you need is a pair of good running shoes, discipline, and persistence to get out on the running track, anytime you choose. It’s perfect for both the young and the old regardless of fitness level, which means you can easily adjust your training to fit your own physical abilities.
The benefits you can gain from running are numerous, and some are still being discovered and proved by various researches. We’ve collected a comprehensive list of seven key benefits of running, and the only logical result after reading it would be putting your sneakers on and giving this great exercise a try.
Improves the Cardiovascular System
Some of the most important benefits of running are related to the impact it has on the health of your cardiovascular system.
In other words, running:
- Lowers your LDL or so-called bad cholesterol, and at the same time increases HDL, the good cholesterol
- Strengthens your heart muscle
- Reduces your blood pressure
- Reduces the risk of heart disease
- Prevents blood clots in the arteries and blood vessels
Running helps your arteries remain flexible and strengthens your heart, so it is an important part of heart disease prevention. The risk of heart attacks, stroke and high blood pressure in runners are decreased, as well as the risk of breast cancer in female runners.
Helps You Maintain a Healthy Weight
Running is the most effective way for you to finally achieve your goal weight and maintain it. It can do wonders for burning calories, as with only a 30-minute jog can help you burn from 280 up to 520 calories, depending on your weight and your speed.
If you’re completely out of shape, it’s a good idea to start slow with brisk walks as they will get your body ready for running. After a week or so, you can introduce, for example, two minutes of running and four minutes of walking, and then gradually increase your distance and speed when you feel you are making progress. You can combine running with some other forms of physical exercise, such as pilates or swimming, to speed up your weight loss and improve your overall fitness.
Still, don’t expect much progress if you don’t change your diet. When it comes to weight loss, nothing can beat the combo of aerobic exercise and healthier eating habits, so put some green veggies and protein on your plate, and cut carbs – meaning no sugary drinks, candy, and fast food.
Strengthens Your Muscles
A variety of different muscles are used while running, so if you train regularly, you’ll tone all of them and increase their strength and endurance. As the results of running, you’ll experience the changes in your legs – your hamstrings, quads and thighs, glutes, and core muscles are activated as all of them are trying to keep your spine aligned while you’re jogging.
The way you run will influence the way your muscles are being toned – long-distance runners tend to have lean muscles while those who practice sprinting can have powerful quadriceps and calves. If you want to enjoy the benefits of both types of running, think about alternating between different types of training every once in a while.
Builds Strong Bones
Running can be seen as weight-bearing and resistance training too, which means it can improve your bone strength and mass, while in elderly runners it slows down the bone loss, thus preventing osteoporosis. Moderate runners, running from 12 to 19 miles a week, have the best benefits when it comes to their bone health.
On the other side, long-distance runners, have to be very careful. They tend to exceed these distances regularly, and this results in high levels of cortisol which is damaging their bones. As a matter of fact, research shows that their bone density is lower than in physically inactive persons.
Improves Your Mental Wellbeing
Running is highly beneficial for your mental health, as it triggers numerous changes taking place in your organism, all of them having a positive impact on your mental wellbeing. Here are just a few of them:
- It stimulates the release of endorphins, the so-called happiness hormones, so it puts you in a good mood and helps you calm down.
- It helps new neurons grow in your hippocampus and form new connections. Stress, anxiety, and depression shrink hippocampus, and the smaller hippocampal volume, the higher the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
- It boosts productivity and creativity
- It helps you fight stress and anxiety and channel your energy properly
- It helps you achieve the runner’s high, a feeling of euphoria when your ability to feel pain is reduced.
Many research studies suggest that even a 10-minute run can be beneficial for your mental health, while a 15-minute run will reduce your risk of depression by 26%.
Builds Discipline and Determination
Since running is an activity which builds up your endurance, it continually challenges your mind to keep on running and test both your physical and your mental limits. This type of exercise needs discipline and self-control, both of which will have a positive impact on the other areas of your life too, and make you choose healthier lifestyle options, such as starting with the right diet or staying away from alcohol and carbs.
Boosts Your Social Life
While running is a perfect kind of individual exercise, it’s a good idea to connect with other novice or more seasoned runners. If you run at a conversational pace and need company, you can find a running partner or a running group you can train with. There are even some running apps which function like dating apps in a way, matching you with a running partner with a similar fitness level and goals.
If you have a history of chronic health issues or previous injuries, it’s always a good idea to consult your physician before your first run, as you might need to take some measures of precaution.