What Are The Health Benefits Of Running?

person running through the park

In case you’re wondering, you don’t need to spend much money to stay fit and maintain good health. There are plenty of free activities that you can do to keep active and healthy.

One of the main ones, of course, is running or jogging. 

Running doesn’t require any special equipment.

You cannot do it almost anywhere. It will, therefore, come as no surprise that running and jogging are one of the most popular fitness activities among large segments of the US population, so much so that the fanbase for running exceeds many millions of people, both men and women.

While initially getting started with running can be a challenge for some, once you get into a habit, you’ll likely get hooked and want to run at every opportunity. 

Running and jogging offer a range of physical and mental health benefits. They can contribute significantly to your overall well-being.

Some of the many benefits of running include better cardiovascular functioning, immunity, mood improvement, and weight regulation.

But these are just a few of the many benefits. There are a lot of positives associated with taking up running.

It can help you live longer, prevent certain cancers, helps you focus and keep your brain healthy, and is great for your bones.

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The Benefits Of Running

three people running to improve fitness

In this blog, we examine some of the many other benefits of running, including:

  • Improved cardiovascular function: When you run, the cardiovascular system gets a workout with an increase in heart rate that increases the circulation of oxygen and nutrients in the blood to different parts of your body. When you run consistently, it strengthens the heart and increases lung capacity. Over time with improved cardiovascular functioning, you can run longer distances with less effort and improve your overall fitness. 
  • Increased muscle strength: Running combined with necessary protein and calorie intake will help to increase muscle strength over time. Some body parts that are strengthened by running regularly include the upper body, your core, and your legs. 
  • Raises bone density: Research shows that any high-impact activity such as running causes stresses on the bones, stimulating them to produce more minerals and strengthen the bone structure. It also enhances the hormones that build bones, creating more healthy cells to produce bones and decreasing the degradation of bone cells. This all helps to reduce fractures. 
  • Benefits health markers: Running consistently lowers the heart rate, lowers cholesterol and triglycerides, controls blood sugar, and reduces blood pressure. It further reduces belly fat and body fat. An improvement in all these health markers can make you healthier.  
  • Great for stress reduction: Running is among the most effective methods to decrease tension and stress as it reduces cortisol, the main stress hormone. It also feels good and boosts endorphins (the body’s feel-good chemicals) when you get outside in nature and run outdoors, which is also proven to lower stress levels.  
  • Confidence booster: Running is a great confidence booster as part of the appeal of running for many people is setting goals and new personal bests on time/distance or competing in marathons and other running competitions, which all build confidence and self-esteem. 
  • Ideal for calorie loss: When it comes to dropping excess calories, losing weight, and boosting metabolism, running is one of the most effective exercises. If you are looking to lose weight by creating a calorie deficit, running will help tremendously. Of course, the exact calorie burn differs for everyone – depending on your starting weight and other factors. But as an example of what’s possible, running 5k burns between 300-400 calories. 
  • Easy to begin: Unlike many other activities running is one of the easiest to begin with as it does not require any special equipment to get started. All it takes is having the right footwear and clothing, and you are good to go. 
  • Running improves your mood: If you are looking to improve your mood, then running is one of the best activities to accomplish it. Running leads to the release of endorphins that are known to boost mood. It helps to develop a positive mindset and attitude. It is an effective way of dealing with depression and improving your overall mood.   
  • Develop a bond with nature: While there are treadmills to run indoors when the weather doesn’t suit the outdoor activity, nothing compares to running outdoors surrounded by nature. Unplug from digital devices and technology and enjoy the sheer joy of connecting with nature in all her natural splendor. Studies show that being active outdoors in nature offers significant health benefits over indoor workouts. Search for a peaceful wooded trail like a park and enjoy the fresh air and stunning natural beauty while running outdoors.  
  • A great way to socialize: Running doesn’t need to be a solo endeavor, as there are thousands of running clubs and groups to connect with and socialize. Running may even help you find new friends that could develop into lifelong friendships. 

How To Start Running 

woman walking to build up to running

While running isn’t rocket science and getting started is as easy as it comes, it is also not something you should be flippant about without thinking through and planning properly.

Since running is a high-impact activity, you must progress gradually from your first run to your 15th run. That includes planning a running schedule that you can stick to and making sure you stick to it.

Don’t go too hard too soon being over-enthusiastic because that attitude can lead to injuries. Instead, try not to overexert yourself until you are confident about what you can do, but most importantly, what you can recover from without too many negative side effects. 

What Would We Recommend?

a group walking together to build up to running

Begin with walking:

Depending on how fit you are before you begin, it may be best to start walking first. This is more so if you have been sedentary for a long time.

Running right away would be too much of a shock to your system, no matter how gentle your starting pace is.

Instead, start walking a mile or two at a leisurely pace and gradually build up the distance every two weeks.

This strategy will help your body adjust to the routine change over time. Later, once you have been walking regularly for a couple of weeks, you could pick up the pace and begin brisk walking, followed by running for 30 seconds and walking for 30 seconds, and so on. 

Know your limits:

It is easy to get carried away and overdo running in the early days, especially in the first few weeks.

However, it takes time for the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones to adapt to the stress and strain of a high-impact activity like running.

The risk of overdoing running, especially in the early stages, is high. Musculoskeletal injuries are quite (very) common among newbie runners.

Learn to recognize the limits of your endurance when starting, and do not exceed your limits at least in the first 2-3 months. Gradually, you can increase your mileage and speed once your body adapts. 

Choose the right footwear:

Good quality running shoes are essential. One of the best ways to ensure you select the right footwear suited to your feet is to get a gait analysis carried out by a physical therapist.

Then, based on the biomechanics, you can select the right shoes to prevent injury and offer adequate protection and comfort. 

Take regular breaks:

Make sure you get adequate rest between runs and allow your body to recover properly by taking a break on alternate days or doing low-impact exercises instead.

This strategy helps to prevent the buildup of strain and stress in the body and prevents post-exercise fatigue. 

How To Prevent Running Injuries 

man having a running injury

There are numerous benefits associated with running and jogging when it’s done right, but it can also cause injuries.

The most common ones we see in runners are cuts and bruises from trips, slips, and tumbles. We also treat a lot of ligament strains and pulled muscles.

But the most frustrating for newbie runners is “shin splints” or shin pain – where you feel pain between the knee and the ankle along the shinbone.

We also refer to this condition as Tibial Stress Syndrome because that’s exactly what causes excess stress on the shinbone when it’s not used to it. If you feel shin pain when you run, it’s best to reign back your activity level until the pain subsides rather than trying to push through it.

But the best advice for all the aches, pains, and niggles you get while running is to consult a physical therapist who can find and fix what’s happening and help improve your running gait and overall performance. 

Andrew Vertson