Whether you are an experienced pavement pounder or an occasional treadmill trotter, running does you good. Running is simple to learn, requires very little specialist equipment, can be done almost anywhere and can be as hard or as easy as you want it to be. All of these advantages add up to make running one of the most popular forms of exercise around. It’s also a great competitive sport too but, if you aren’t the competitive type, you can just as happily run for fun.
Running is undoubtedly an effective and enjoyable way to exercise that offers a great many benefits so let’s examine some of the main ones so that you can revel in the knowledge that your running workouts are doing you good!
1. Running makes you happier
Running has long been associated with the so-called runner’s high. This is caused by the release of chemicals called endorphins which are closely related to morphine and are your body’s natural pain killers. Endorphins leave you feeling happy, relaxed and de-stressed which can all help enhance mental wellbeing. Stress, the scourge of modern living, is linked directly to a wide variety of serious medical conditions and anything that helps you deal with stress naturally is great. Many runners see their workouts as “moving meditation” and running provides the perfect antidote to the stresses and strains of daily life.
2. Running can help you control your weight
Running burns twice as many calories as walking and averages around 100 calories per mile. That means if you run 15 miles a week you will burn the caloric equivalent of around half a pound of fat or 25 pounds per year! Combined with a sensible diet, running can help you reach and maintain your ideal weight and as being overweight is closely linked to a variety of serious medical conditions, this is good new indeed. A word of caution though; as running is a high impact activity, it can be hard on your feet, ankles, knees, hips and spine so take it easy if you are significantly overweight.
3. Running can ward of many diseases
Running is a cardiovascular exercise which means it works your heart, lungs and circulatory system. Keeping these organs fit will increase your general health and significantly reduce your risk of suffering numerous potentially life-shortening medical conditions. Statistically, regular runners are less likely to suffer from:
- Coronary heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Heart attacks
4. Running strengthens your immune system
Your body is assaulted daily by bugs and germs determined to do you harm. From the common cold to more serious diseases such as the flu, your immune system battles these assailants in an effort to keep you healthy. Running can help strengthen your immune system so that you are better able to fight off bugs and so that you recover faster if your immune system is actually defeated. Runners generally suffer fewer minor ailments and shrug off illness faster than non-runners. On the flip side, too much running may compromise your immune system so make sure you also take periodic rest days – you can have too much of a good thing!
5. Running strengthens your bones and joints
Running is a high impact activity. In fact, every running step you take transmits around eight-times your bodyweight through your body. This stress triggers bone building cells called osteoblasts to increase bone strength and density which means that runners are much less likely to suffer from age-related bone loss (called osteopenia) or osteoporosis – sometimes called brittle bone disease. Running also strengthens the muscles of the ankles, knees and hips which can help increase joint stability and improve joint health.
6. Running can improve your blood lipid profile
As well as providing a medium for carrying oxygen around your body, your body uses blood to transport lipids or fat. To do this is uses substances called lipoproteins. Lipoproteins come in three different varieties – very low density lipoproteins (VLDLs), low density lipoproteins (LDLs), and high density lipoproteins (HDLS). Of the three, you want plenty of HDLs and fewer LDLs and VLDLs. HDLs are often called “good cholesterol” although that isn’t strictly true as they carry cholesterol and are not actually cholesterol themselves.
HDLs are like cleaners who pick up circulating triglycerides and cholesterol and take them out of your blood, where they can do you harm, and back to your liver which keeps them out of trouble. Regular runs have been shown to increase good HDLs while lowering the so-called bad LDLs and VLDLs. All in all, running is good for your blood lipid profile which means it is good for your heart and circulatory health too.
Whether you run for fun or for sport, it’s nice to know that every step you take is carrying you toward improved fitness and health. Running isn’t always easy and if it were everyone would do it but remember; running does you good and will very likely add many years to your life – so keep it up!