Benefits of Running
We were born to run (even Bruce Springsteen would agree ;-). The physical and mental benefits of running have been enjoyed by mankind ever since the dawn of time. Running is one of the most purest forms of natural exercise that we can do. Aside from a good pair of shoes, running requires minimal equipment. But far greater than its convenience, running has numerous health benefits to offer us as well. Want proof? One could spend months reading all of the volumes of empirical data and studies on the benefits of running. For the rest of us… here’s the summary:
- Live Longer
In 1986, The New England Journal of Medicine published its findings on Dr. Ralph Paffenbarger’s study in which over 16,000 men participated for more than 20 years. One of its findings: runners live longer. Many other studies since then have found definitive correlations between higher fitness levels and longevity using treadmill fitness tests. One such study concluded that the bottom 20% were 4x more likely to die than the top 20%. I think the benefits of running listed below are some of the reasons why...
- Lower Blood Pressure / Stronger Heart:
Running has been shown to reduce blood pressure in subjects that have been tested. With increased heart rate and blood flow, our arteries expand and contract to meet the vigor of activity. This helps keep them more elastic and blood pressure low. Running also exercises your most important muscle – your heart. The resting heart rate of runners can be almost half the heart rate of those with sedentary lifestyles, meaning that their hearts are so strong that they accomplish in one beat what takes other hearts two beats. The list of ailments that running has been shown to reduce the risk of include: diabetes, cancer, heart disease, stroke, heart attack, etc...
- Lose weight by running
Most people that start running, use this benefit as their primary motivator. How much weight will you actually lose running? Let’s say that you build your routine up to running 5 miles a day. The average runner burns 100 calories per mile, and a pound of fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories. So at this rate, you’ll burn almost 5 pounds of fat per month while maintaining the exact same diet that you have now! And running and exercise have been shown to diminish appetite, so you’re likely to eat less. Want to lose weight? Try running.
- The famous “Runner’s High”:
I know…sounds illegal, but it’s one of the tremendous natural benefits of running. In response to the hard, sustained physical effort of running your nervous system releases a substance called endogenous morphine (“endorphins”) into your system. These endorphins create a post workout sense of euphoria. It’s that state of bliss that keeps many of runners coming back for more. Some runners claim to be “addicted” (I must be in denial ;-).
- Positive Psychological Effects:
No medical journal or study can completely capture one of the most important benefits of running – the psychological perks: the reduction in stress; the boost of self-confidence; the increased overall happiness; and the improved mental alertness. When your body has handled the rigor of activity, it’s less likely to tense-up over the self-induced stresses of daily life. Once you’ve run up that neighborhood hill, what’s a cup of spilled milk? Running for me can be a time of self-reflection and almost meditation. It’s a time to sort out life’s challenges and the solutions to manage them. It can be a time of prayer. It can be exhilarating. Want a big boost in your self-esteem? Start running!
- Slows down aging:
As we age, our bodies lose both muscle and bone mass. Running has been shown to slow this process down, as the stress of running strengthens our skeletal system and muscles. Running also increases the natural production of a human growth hormone...the same one that many celebrities have injected into themselves to look younger...I’ll take a sweaty workout over a syringe any day!
Not many sports can be done almost anywhere with almost no gear. I’m sure the ancient Greeks would argue that even shoes and clothes aren’t required, as their Olympians were quite the minimalists. Today, we just need a good pair of running shoes and off we go. From urban sidewalks to rural trails and all the real estate in between, the world is loaded with places for runners to explore. Travel a lot? There’s always room in your suitcase for a pair of sneakers. The world is your gym, my friends, go re-discover it.
There are many people that avoid running due to a bad experience or an old injury. Most of these bad experiences can be traced to an overly aggressive training plan or just over-training (i.e. no rest). I have been guilty of the latter quite a few times and it can be a painful lesson to learn. But hopefully from the above information, you can see that the benefits of running far outweigh the sweat and periodic discomfort of your efforts. So, barring any extreme physical impairment or handicap, running could be the answer to your prayers. The benefits of running are many. Try it and you’ll see for yourself. I look forward to seeing you out there!
Want to reap the benefits of running? Start here!