There are so many health benefits of running, but the idea of it can feel like an uphill struggle for beginners. Regardless of your size or shape, running is a natural motion for everyone because the human body was made to move!
Running can seem like a lot of work at times, but you can get used to it and learn to enjoy it. To help boost your motivation to run, here is a list of the health benefits of running to help you put on your trainers and get out there.
1. Excellent Cardio Exercise
Running is an excellent cardiovascular exercise because it increases heart rate. Cardio exercises help us work out our heart, which is a muscle that gets stronger as a result. A robust, healthy cardiovascular system transports oxygenated blood throughout our body, enabling muscles to function properly and helps in fat burning. Regular cardio exercise, such as jogging, reduces the risk of heart disease, lowers bad levels of cholesterol, improves circulation, and reduces blood pressure.
2. Running Benefits Weight Loss
What we eat turns into different types of fuel for the body. When we run, we burn that fuel at a higher rate. Glycogen is the fuel that is immediately available during normal activities, but during exercise, it can be depleted quickly. This means the body turns to its ‘stored fuel’, which is fat. When we run at a moderate pace for longer than 15 minutes, our bodies begin to use fat reserves as fuel, rather than glycogen, and this helps us to lose weight. You also continue to burn calories for several hours after a good run!
Regular cardio exercise like running also aids in reducing cravings for unhealthy foods, and it usually results in decreased appetite for an hour after exercise. This can aid in weight loss because, after a run, you’ll probably gravitate toward healthier, lower-calorie options.
3. Running Strengthens Bones and Joints
You may have heard complaints that running is bad for the joints because of the repetitive nature of the movements, but that is simply untrue. Running strengthens joints by increasing blood flow to the area and the ligaments. Your bone density increases as you train to withstand the demands placed on it.
Even though some joint problems are fairly common in runners, other factors, like poor fitting running shoes or bad posture, usually contribute to them. Running shouldn’t pose a significant risk of joint injury, as long as you maintain a healthy weight, because they are usually caused by issues that can be resolved. For example, wide fit trail running shoes could be a game changer for runners who regularly get blisters, as pain can cause you to alter your natural gait, which can in turn lead to stress on the joints.
4. Strengthens and Tones Muscles
Your muscles will start to get firmer and take on a different shape after a few weeks of running. Your bum, and all of your leg muscles, get the most benefits. Yet, running works your whole body too. It won’t be long until you see the difference and grow more confident in your appearance.
Another benefit is that your stronger muscles will enhance your ability to run, allowing you to go farther and faster than you previously could. The fact that you can see the results of your efforts will inspire you to keep going.
5. Running Improves Mental Health
Regular cardio exercise, like running, reduces the symptoms of anxiety and depression. When we jog, our brain releases a variety of feel-good chemicals. This includes serotonin, which improves mood, endorphins, which are natural painkillers, and endocannabinoids, which induce a calming, contented feeling. This is the source of the ‘runner’s high’, a buzz from running that lasts all day long!
If you go for a run by yourself, it also has a meditative effect where you can practice body awareness and have time to yourself to solve any issues. This helps you think more clearly and rationally about any stress you have in your life.
6. Improves Quality of Sleep
Running lowers cortisol levels and increases the production of sleep-related hormones. You’ll find it simpler and easier to fall asleep at night after running, and you’ll also sleep for longer. Running in the evenings, however, can make some people find it difficult to fall asleep because they feel energised for a while after. If this is the case, try scheduling your run earlier so that you have more time to unwind before bed.
7. Anti-Aging Benefits
One of the lesser known benefits of running is that it can help you stay looking youthful for longer. Running encourages your body to produce antioxidants, which remove toxins. This drives out impurities and keeps your skin looking and feeling healthy. The improved blood flow may also lessen age-related changes, keeping a fresh complexion and youthful glow.
8. Reduces Age-Related Diseases
Young and middle-aged people who engage in physical activity, such as running, are less likely than non-exercisers to experience a wide range of other health issues. This includes issues with heart disease, obesity and related illnesses such as diabetes, as well as the development of cancers.
9. Boosts the Immune System
Running or engaging in moderate aerobic activity reduces the number of days spent ill with the common cold and other upper respiratory infections. Numerous studies show that regular moderate-intensity exercise lowers our long-term risk of infection.
This is because running helps to circulate the protective cells that attack bacteria and viruses. Raising our core body temperature through running may also play a part in inhibiting the growth of viruses, as well as expelling bacteria through heavy breathing and sweating.
10. Builds Strength of Character
Running can feel like hard work. Some runs are really tough, yet you keep putting one foot in front of the other despite the gruelling workout. Well, that carries through to other areas of your life. When you are faced with a personal challenge, or simply a boring work task, running gives you the mental strength to keep chipping away until the task is done.
Having that inner sense of grit is a comfort, as you know that even when the going is tough, you are strong enough to see it through.
How Long Should You Run to Get Health Benefits?
Running for 20-30 minutes per day is recommended to reap the maximum health benefits, but even shorter runs of 5 to 10 minutes can have an impact. Research suggests that there is no benefit to running over 4.5 hours a week, so you don’t need to be a slave to the treadmill or road to see a difference.
While your level of fitness may play a role in your running stamina, you can start slowly and gradually work up to a 20-30-minute run. Simply begin with a walk/jog and keep going over time until you can sustain a consistent jog for 20 minutes. Then go from there!
Programmes like the NHS Couch to 5K are also helpful, giving you a training plan to follow for beginners. If you have existing health issues, it is advisable to speak with a doctor before starting any running programme.
The health benefits of running are amazing. For many people, running develops into a way of life rather than just a sport. Once you establish a running routine, you’ll quickly start to get excited at the thought of running, and enjoy the sensations of your muscles working. if you want to get in the best shape of your life, both physically and mentally, lace up those trainers and get out there!