The Benefits of Running

I talk a lot and a lot and a lot on this little blog about running. I read a lot about running (you should see my Amazon wish list!) and probably put more thought than I should into my workouts, my weekly mileage, and when I’ll run my next race. Running is great for numbers-obsessed people like myself because it gives our brains some data (pace, distance, time, elevation gained, VO2max, etc) to play with, and it’s great for competitive people (like myself) because of the competitive nature of racing. However, running also has several benefits in terms of physical and mental health. Even if you don’t get some odd intellectual satisfaction of a well-organized training plans (I really should have taken more math classes in college) or enjoy competing in a race, running offers a wide variety of benefits that should encourage you to run more, keep running, or begin running! 

Health benefits of running

Running Helps You Maintain a Healthy Weight

Cardiovascular exercise is essential to weight loss and maintenance, and running is one of the best forms of cardio. Running burns roughly 115 calories per mile for a 150-lb person running at a 10 minute per mile pace (based on this calculator). This means that 3 mile run will burn enough calories (340 calories) to help you lose a pound a week or more if you are also watching your diet. If you are trying to maintain a healthy weight, running will help you do that for as little as 30 minutes a day! For comparison, using the elliptical for the same amount of time will burn 300 calories, and cycling for 30 minutes will burn 270 calories.  

Running Protects Your Joints

You often hear people say that running is bad for your joints, but the opposite is actually true! While weak hips and IT band problems can lead to knee pain (and these should be treated in physical therapy or with at-home mobility and strength training), running actually strengthens the cartilage around your knees and other joints. Research indicates that running prevents osteoarthritis in both men and women.


Running Can Reverse Certain Signs of Aging

Recently, a study from the University of Colorado determined that runners do not experience the same loss of physical ease as those who chose walking for exercise. As they age, runners maintain better efficiency and experience less fatigue when the walk—so much so that the 70-year-old runners in the study walked as efficiently as the average inactive college student. 

Running Decreases Stress and Eases Anxiety

 Running releases endorphins, which are hormones produced by the central nervous system to reduce your body’s perception of pain. Endorphins trigger a positive “feel-good” sensation in the body, which wards off stress, anxiety, and depression. Additionally, running often takes you outside, and the fresh air and vitamin D from the sunlight have a positive impact on your mood. 

Running Teaches You How to Set and Achieve Goals

In a sport filled with, the constant pursuit of PRs and a variety of race distances, runners are no strangers to setting and achieving goals. Just as any running who has run a Boston Qualifying time at a marathon—running fast and for a long distance requires careful planning, removal of self-doubt, a keen awareness of how to exactly achieve the goal down to the very second, and the ability to push through discomfort. Even when you cross the finish line and achieve your goal, runners know that they can always improve next time. This hunger for achievement and the discipline required in goal-setting carries over from running to all areas of life: finishing your degree, starting a dream job or getting a promotion at work, or simply making healthy changes to life.  

Running Prevents Heart Disease and Cancer

A recent study from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology indicates that runners have a 45% lower risk of dying from heart disease than non-runners. Running strengthens your heart, especially if you run consistently (a study from Iowa State University found that those who have been running for six years or more have a 50% lower chance of heart disease). Other studies are finding that running can prevent cancer (such as a 68% decrease in risk of lung cancer and help improve the immunity of people who have cancer.  

Running Makes You Smarter

A recent study from the University of Illinois found that endurance exercise, especially running, improves cognitive function. This is in part because running slows or even stops the physical decay of the brain; running also makes the neurons in the brain more nimble and more likely to form neural connections and become active during cognitive ability. 

I could keep going on and on about the different benefits of running, but these seven items should persuade you that running is not only a great form of exercise, but that it can improve your life, prevent disease, and help you achieve your goals! The 30 minutes or hour each day that you dedicate to running is not only improving your fitness, it is helping you build a healthier, smarter, happier self!

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