20 Incredible Benefits Of Running
If you want to improve your health, running could be a good start. It is beneficial for your health and does not require much. You do not have to pay a gym membership fee or get equipments like skipping ropes, yoga mats, and exercise bands. All you need are running shoes, which most of us already own.
But if the thought of running a mile is demotivating you, studies by Science direct, show that running just 5 to 10 minutes a day at an average pace can add years to your life. It may reduce your risk of chronic illnesses such as heart attacks, strokes, and other common diseases. If you still need convincing about how superior running is as a form of exercise, maybe learning about these 20 benefits of running will do the job.
1. Strengthens Bones
Running is a high-impact activity. This means every time our feet land on the ground, we create force. Our joints and bones must be able to absorb the force. When we run, we are working out our bones, which leads to an increased bone mineral density. This helps maintain the skeletal system’s structural integrity.
According to a study by a medical journal that compared the bone densities of runners and cyclists, the former had much higher bone density than the latter. The study also found that 63% of the cyclists had osteopenia or brittle bones in their hips. As much as running is good for the bones, overworking the bones by running too much can have negative impacts. Experts advise taking short breaks between runs for maximum results.
2. Improve Heart Health
One of the key benefits of running is that it improves heart health. Our heart is the most important organ in our body. It is responsible for providing oxygen and blood to our body, and the moment it fails, we die. As we grow older, our heart becomes weaker. Luckily, we can combat this by running.
When we run, our heart works extra hard to pump blood and oxygen to every part of our body. This helps strengthen our heart muscles while decreasing stress levels. Think of the heart as a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets.
3. Improve Mental Health
We have recently learned that taking care of our mental health is just as important as taking care of our physical health. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being, and it affects how we think, feel, and act. It helps us deal with stress and anxiety.
Too much stress and anxiety can affect our health, and to prevent this, some people choose to run. When we run, endo cannabinoids, a molecule, is released in our body. This molecule helps regulate our mood and reduces stress. It helps calm our minds, which is needed for sound mental health.
4. Aid Weight Loss
Running is one of the best cardio exercises for weight loss. When we are running, we are continuously moving many parts of our body, like legs, knees, arms, and hips. Therefore, running burns more calories than any other physical activity. You do not have to run long distances or at a fast pace to enjoy the benefits. It will take you longer to shed the pounds, but you will lose it eventually.
The key to achieving weight loss was exercising moderately for 150 minutes or vigorously for 75 minutes per week. You also have to restrict your calories, though.
5. Boost Immunity System
Our immune system defends us against harmful microorganisms that could make us ill. Experts say that exercising reduces the chances of getting sick. So how do our immunity and running play into all this?
Our body only has a few immune cells in the lymphoid tissues. When we run, blood and oxygen are pumping throughout the body. This causes the immune cells to increase temporarily and circulate to other parts of the body. If we run regularly, our immune system responds better to threats. Running also decreases inflammation which is not good for the body.
Chronic inflammation damages healthy cells and increase the risk of life-threatening diseases like heart failure, cancer and diabetes. We can reduce inflammtion by running, which in turn boosts our immunity system.
6. Strengthen Joints
If we do not take care of our joints, we might suffer from osteoarthritis. It is a degenerative joint disease in which the cartilage that lines your joints breaks down over time. This results in joint pain and stiffness. It is common in older people because our bodies get weaker as we get older. However, we can prevent the early onset of such diseases by taking care of our bodies through exercises like running.
A study published on Pubmed that compared runners and walkers found that running reduced the risk of osteoarthritis. According to the results, walkers were twice as likely to suffer from knee osteoarthritis compared to runners.
7. Maintain Knee Health
We have all probably heard about knee pain and injury from overworking the knees. Knee pain is a common complaint among people who run or walk a lot. This could have demotivated a few people from running, but this is a popular misconception. The pain is caused by poor form and wrong running shoes. If you change this, running should not be a problem.
Running at a recreational level is beneficial for your knee health. When we run, our knees compress, bringing more fluid to the joints to keep them lubricated. Lubrication helps repair our cartilage naturally and reduces the damage to the cartilage. This reduces inflammation and keeps our knees healthy.
8. Works Your Core
Apart from keeping our knees healthy, running also helps work out our core. Our lower body is not the only muscle working when we are running. Core muscles, like our abs and obliques are also working.
These muscles connect our upper and lower body and are responsible for many functions. It helps us move and maintain proper form, posture, and balance while running. It can also absorb the force produced when running and protect our back. And if you want abs, running can help you achieve that. When we run, we burn fat in the abdomen area, causing the abs to be more visible.
9. Improve Sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for our health. This does not mean sleeping long hours, but refers to the quality of your sleep. Good quality sleep means you fall asleep easily and do not wake up regularly during the night. Factors like stress and anxiety can affect the quality of our sleep, but luckily, running is believed to enhance sleep quality.
Shelby Harris, a clinical psychologist specializing in behavioral sleep medicine, states that exercise improves our overall sleep quality and helps with insomnia. She says 20 to 30 minutes of cardio a day can help us fall asleep faster and keep us more energized during the day. She advises exercising at least four hours before bedtime.
10. Boost Brainpower
Our brain is the second most important organ after our heart. It controls the way we think, feel, say, and act. As we get older, our brain tissues shrink and decline cognitive function. This leads to neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and bipolar disorder.
But if you engage in cardio activities like running, you might retain most of your cognitive functions. The logic behind this is that when we exercise, there is an increase in our brain’s gray matter, an essential tissue that affects everything we do. When this gray matter increases, we can protect our brain better and enhance its functions.
11. Maintain Discipline and Learn Resilience
Humans were not born with discipline and resilience, and yet, for a better life, we need the two. They affect everything in our lives, like health, work, education, relationships, and finance. If we do not have discipline, we might fail at many things we do.
Therefore, we need to build our discipline, and one way to do that is through running. Running is a laborious task. The thought of running can easily demotivate us, but we have to force our minds to commit to it. This requires discipline, and if we commit ourselves to running, we build discipline and resilience in the long run. We do not always have to give our best, but showing up every day is a great way to start.
12. Reduce Risk of Chronic Diseases
Poor blood sugar levels and chronic inflammation cause chronic diseases. Thankfully, running improves our body’s ability to control blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation. When we run, our body needs energy, and to do that, our body burns sugars from food, which lowers glucose levels. It also makes our body use insulin more effectively. This reduces the risk of diabetes.
Additionally, reducing inflammation in the body is also necessary for our health. Inflammation is a physiological response in the body. It helps our body heal from injuries and damage. Sometimes, the body does not stop healing itself, which leads to chronic inflammation. This damages cells and causes fatal diseases like cancer.
13. Connect You to a Community
When we run in your local parks, we might meet new people, make friends, and even build a community. But why is this important you ask? That is because humans need social connectedness for a healthy mind. Social connectedness refers to the quality of relationships people have that makes them feel valued, loved, and supported.
Humans need quality social connections for survival. This is why we have friends, families, and loved ones. When we are socially connected with other people, we have healthier minds and make better choices. We can also handle stress and anxiety better. Running helps us meet new people and fulfill our social satisfaction.
14. Is Meditative
Many of us run with our headphones on because the right song energizes us and helps us keep going. However, experts claim that leaving our headphones at home and practicing mindful running can be meditative. When we run without distractions and only focus on the next 20 steps to keep going, it helps us connect our minds and bodies fully. This is known as mindful running, which can be meditative.
Harvard Health stated that people who meditate regularly have lower levels of anxiety, depression, stress, and pain. Most people use a run to think about the million things on their to-do lists, but if they break this habit and practice mindfulness, running can be meditative.
15. Increase Vitamin D
If you love to run outdoors, it is better to do it at midday when the sun is right above you. The sun helps our body produce vitamin D, which is essential for our health. Vitamin D keeps our bones, teeth, and muscles healthy. It also improves our resistance to diseases.
Unfortunately, NIH research shows that 4 out of 10 Americans have vitamin D deficiency. Therefore, we need to spend more time in the sun. When our skin is exposed to sunlight, the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays hit cholesterol in the skin cells, which is converted to vitamin D.
16. Control Hunger Hormones
To achieve weight loss, we have to burn calories, and if we overeat, we have to burn more calories. The basic concept behind weight loss is calories out must be higher than calories in. This means we have to eat less and work out more, but some people might have trouble controlling their diet.
Luckily, running kills two birds with one stone. Running not only helps us increase our calorie output, but it also helps control our calorie input by suppressing our hunger hormones. Our body produces two hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin increases your appetite, while leptin decreases it. Running suppresses the latter, and if we run regularly, this hormone level decreases.
17. Keeps Eye Healthy
Most of us are probably unaware of how running affects our eye health. Running is said to have a significant impact on our vision. When we run, blood flow in the optic nerve increases, keeping our eyes young and healthy. And when we run regularly, blood flow to the optic area increases and helps us prevent eye diseases.
Moderate physical exercise can reduce the risk of glaucoma. Glaucoma causes blindness due to nerve damage. A buildup of fluid in the eye that cannot be drained causes this damage . The study showed that people who exercised were 25% less likely to develop glaucoma than those who did not.
18. Boost Energy
When we start running, our pulse heightens, we breathe louder and faster, and our heart pumps faster and harder to supply blood to our muscles and brain. Our body then releases powerful feel-good hormones like endorphins.
These hormones reduce stress, improve mood, and most importantly, boost energy. And if we run regularly, our cardiovascular endurance increases and reduces the load in our lungs. This helps us use our energy more efficiently. A good run also makes us tired at night and gives us a good sleep, making us more energized during the day.
19. Improve Digestion
Our gut contains trillions of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microbes that aid digestion. When we exercise, blood and oxygen flow throughout the body, including our guts. This creates a perfect condition for these microorganisms to flourish. These microorganisms can better prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, digest food, and absorb essential nutrients.
Running also keeps the muscles in the digestive system moving. This allows food to pass through our digestive passageway more effectively and quickly. A person with a sedentary lifestyle may, therefore, experience digestive disorders such as constipation, bloating, and irritable bowel syndrome.
20. Improve Stamina
Stamina refers to our body’s ability to stay focused and energized to complete physical and mental tasks throughout the day. It helps us endure discomfort and stress while reducing exhaustion. We need stamina to help us power through the day.
When we run, our heart and lungs work faster and harder, and our muscles expand to accommodate the change. After exercising, everything goes back to normal. But if we exercise regularly, our body is accustomed to the intense activity levels. We might need to increase the intensity of our exercise to make our bodies work harder. This is known as an improvement in stamina. When our stamina improves, we can do more with less fatigue.