There are several kinds of exercise that you can do to keep your body healthy and fit, but running is widely considered to be one of the top choices because it has a wide array of health benefits.
Running is a form of aerobic exercise, which helps support overall health and alleviates the symptoms of stress and depression. Furthermore, it improves brain power and stabilizes emotional health. And these aren’t just claims—there is a wealth of research to back up this information.
Hence, it’s no surprise that more and more people are engaging in running for exercise. They believe that it can help them improve their way of living in terms of emotional, physical, mental, and even psychological health.
In this post, we will share with you all the health benefits of running and why you should consider making it part of your daily routine. If you’re a beginner, you can check out this post to learn how to start your exercise routine.
Let’s get to it…
15 Health Benefits of Running
No matter if you choose to run fast or slow, a short distance or a long distance, running will provide you with health benefits. As you find your running routine and what works best for you, make sure to incorporate a healthy amount of rest into your regimen in order to allow your body to recover after going for a run. If you can find this healthy balance, you will see the plethora of benefits that running can have on your life.
1. Prevents diseases.
Several studies show that running can help lower one’s risk of diseases such as stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, and heart attack. There are even experts who claim that running can prevent the body from developing cancer cells. Running has been linked to a reduced risk of developing certain types of cancer, and, if you already have cancer, taking up running may help improve your quality of life during chemotherapy treatment. On average, cancer survivors extend their lives by 5.3 years after taking up running. People suffering from cardiovascular disease gain an average of 4.3 years.
Studies show that doing either 150 minutes of moderate-intensity running or speed walking or 75 minutes of more intense running per week can reduce your risk of death from all causes by 30%, and reduce your risk of death from a heart attack or stroke by 45%.
Additionally, those participating in studies who ran for less than one hour each week experienced the same longevity benefits as those who ran over three hours per week. However, people who reported to run over a period of six years or longer gained the most protection against disease. In fact, former smokers were able to add an average of 4.1 years to their lives after taking up running. And even if you’re still a smoker, you can add 2.6 years to your life, on average.
2. Makes you lose weight.
Running helps burn the calories in your body. It is probably the most effective exercise to lose weight, as it requires the use of all the muscles in your body. Further, your body will continue to burn calories after your run is finished. Studies have shown that running on a regular basis increases the amount of calories you burn while doing other routine things during the day, such as sitting at your desk working.
To lose one pound of body weight in a week, you have to create a calorie deficit of 3500 calories, which is the equivalent of burning 500 calories each day. When you are running, you can easily burn 500 calories in one hour, making weight loss an attainable goal.
3. Supports knees and bones.
Running helps increase bone mass and can even prevent age-related bone loss. A 2016 study explains that people who run more often are less likely to experience osteoarthritis and knee pain than those who don’t. The National Institute of Health also reports that running can strengthen your bones and improve their function.
While some people may say that running is hard on your knees, science has disproven this claim. Many long-term studies have shown that running does not have a high correlation with knee damage. Instead, your bones grow and strengthen by responding to the physical demands that you put on them. People who run on a regular basis are often putting a demand on their muscles and bones, so their bones adapt to stay stronger and don’t weaken as easily with age.
4. Improves cardiovascular health.
Aerobic exercises like running are good for the heart. Research shows that people who run are healthier than those who don’t. Running improves cardiovascular health because it forces your body to work at an increased capacity, meaning your heart rate increases and your blood flows rapidly. The increase in your heart rate while you are running also gives your hard-working muscles the additional oxygen that they need to function properly. The blood also carries vital nutrients to your body’s tissues during this process.
When you are running, your energy needs naturally increase, which forces your blood vessels to pulse. Also, your body becomes naturally inclined to consume a larger amount of oxygen, which strengthens your lungs and allows you to breathe more easily during your sedentary times. In time, this process improves your body’s ability to function at a high level, which improves your overall well-being. Running also decreases your resting heart rate and lowers your blood pressure, which both improve heart function.
5. Delays the occurrence of death.
Since running provides a wide array of health benefits and prevents the manifestation of several kinds of diseases, it also reduces the chances of dying at an early age. According to research, people who run on a regular basis have been found to live an average of three years longer than those who live a sedentary lifestyle. This means that doing something as simple as a 15-minute walk or a 5-minute run every day could be adding years to your life. These benefits could mean a difference between life and death for sedentary people.
6. Provides better sleep quality.
A 2012 study of adolescent individuals indicates that running improves sleep quality and psychological functioning. Not only does running improve the quality of your sleep, it can also help increase the number of hours you sleep, regulate your circadian rhythm, and improve your overall sleeping pattern.
Running can help naturally cure insomnia, which results in a boost in productivity and creativity during the day. After all, if you plan on going for a morning run, you have no choice but to prioritize getting enough sleep every night.
7. Increases brain power.
As a kind of aerobic exercise, running upsurges the release of neurotransmitters, which are what cause your brain to generate more neurons for better mental performance. While the brain tends to shrink as you age, this can be prevented by doing exercises such as running. Also, studies have suggested that running can help increase the mass of the midbrain, where hearing and vision are controlled, as well as the mass of the hippocampus, where your memories are stored.
Running can also impact your brain chemicals in a way that prepares you to have a healthier-than-average brain as you age. Studies measuring neural markers and brain function in active and inactive middle-aged individuals found that active people’s brains were more efficient and showed greater neural plasticity than the brains of inactive people.
8. Boosts focus and concentration.
Overall, exercise improves your focus and concentration. However, several studies show that aerobic exercises such as running have the most significant contribution to your ability to focus, concentrate, and make decisions. Up until relatively recently, neuroscientists assumed people were born with a finite number of brain cells. However, research has revealed that when humans exercise, new brain cells can be created in the hippocampus, which is where your memories are stored.
In addition to generating new brain cells, running also increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which encourages the binding of brain cells to one another. These new connections among cells become denser, leading to improved thinking. These brain cell connections are an important element in making long-term memories.
Studies show that running directly and immediately leads to improved focus and concentration. After running for half an hour, your dorsolateral prefrontal cortex exerts an increased amount of energy to resist distractions. Studies have further shown that performance on tests of attention improves after exercising as well. Finally, immediately after running, your problem-solving skills, memory, and attention all perform at an optimal level.
9. Fights age-related cognitive decline.
Cognitive decline is a middle state between typical learning and memory issues that arise with aging and dementia. Symptoms of cognitive decline include a lack of mental alertness, a tendency to forget things, and mild memory loss. Because running boosts brain power and mental function, it can help to combat the signs of age-related cognitive decline. It also improves memory retention, reducing the risk of dementia and other brain illnesses.
When you exercise enough to really break a sweat, new brain cells are born. However, animal studies suggest that these new cells may perish within a few days if they are not used. This means that the brain needs to be challenged to learn new information during this time, making it appear that the new cells are kept only if they are needed. When you exercise your body and your mind, the cells become permanent. So to decrease your age-related cognitive decline, you should exercise and engage in challenging activities that stimulate your mind.
10. Improves mental alertness and clarity.
If you are having trouble focusing at work or school, running might be what you need to improve your mental alertness and clarity. It is common for people to feel restless at work, especially if they are stuck behind a desk all day. Running can improve this feeling, as it reduces brain fog. Studies have found that adults who practiced a running regimen for three months formulated new neurons in their brains and a more diverse, denser set of connections between these new cells.
Likewise, running promotes mindfulness, which is the ability to focus on the present. It gives you the opportunity to pay complete attention to the act of moving your body. Whether you are in a marathon or running alone in your neighborhood, running is something that you are primarily doing by yourself. It requires you to rely only on your own strength, perseverance, balance, and endurance.
11. Boosts your confidence and self-esteem.
Self-esteem and physical activity are shown to have a relationship starting at an early age. Of course the toned look that you get from running can give you a boost in confidence, but research that was completed on girls between the ages of 11 and 13 found that exercising improves confidence and self-esteem regardless of one’s body type. This was found to be particularly true for girls who have a high risk of becoming overweight.
In people of all ages, running can turn your negative thoughts into positive emotions. It gives you a sense of accomplishment, and it can inspire you to be a better, healthier, and happier person. It can be especially helpful to run outside because research shows that working out in green spaces leads to lowered blood pressure, more confidence, and increased self-esteem.
12. Prevents alcohol and drug addiction.
Engaging in exercise will give you a sense of fulfillment because it initiates the release of endorphins and dopamine. There is a relationship between running and the release of these “feel good” hormones that leads to an increased overall sense of well-being. These hormones make you feel good, making you crave for more training. Additionally, running and drugs that are commonly abused activate the same neural systems because they are both done with the goal of feeling a sense of reward. If you can get this feeling from running, you will be less likely to seek it out through drugs and alcohol.
13. Relieves stress and anxiety.
A 2001 study by Peter Salmon concluded that aerobic exercises like running help the body be more resilient and resistant to stress and anxiety. Consider this: One of the first things that people tell others who are experiencing anxiety is to take a deep breath. Shallow breaths make anxiety worse. Running on a regular basis has a positive impact on your breathing habits. It increases your lung capacity, which allows you to consume more oxygen and use that oxygen more efficiently.
Additionally, running increases blood flow to the brain and impacts the HPA axis, which regulates various processes in your body. This helps reduce your natural reaction to stress, and it increases your ability to regulate your mood and emotions. Finally, running reduces the levels of cortisol and adrenaline in your body, which are the body’s stress hormones.
14. Gets rid of the signs of depression.
When you run, your brain secretes the happy hormones that lift your mood. Research shows that even a 30-minute running exercise can help treat someone who is suffering from depression. In fact, studies have suggested that running is nearly as effective as medication when it comes to managing symptoms of depression. Running sends a signal to your brain to release endorphins, which work to improve your mood and fight anxiety and the symptoms of depression.
Running also gives you a chance to get outside and benefit from the vitamin D that the sun can provide you. Additionally, it can give you an opportunity to connect with other people if you choose to run in a running group or exercise with a friend. Making these personal connections decreases the signs and symptoms of depression.
15. Makes you happier.
As running lifts your mood and gets rid of the signs of depression and anxiety, it can generally make you not only healthier, but happier too. It gets your body into better shape, making you feel stronger and more equipped to handle any challenges that come your way. Being in better physical shape can also improve your mental health because it makes you feel empowered, leading to a happier mood.
Running also allows you to set goals for yourself. When you are living with a purpose and working towards a goal, you will automatically be happier. Of course, it is great if you meet your goal, but simply taking the journey is enough to bring you an increased sense of happiness.
Today, we’ve discussed the top health benefits of running and why you need to consider adding it to your workout regime.
It may be hard at first to actually start doing it, particularly if you don’t have enough motivation, but just by looking at all these benefits that running can provide you, who wouldn’t want to be healthier in the most affordable way?
Work those legs and feet out!Start running today and be amazed by the health benefits you’ll soon experience.