When people think of improving their health, one of the first activities that come up is running. Why is this? Running is one of the best activities you can take up to improve your health and live a higher quality lifestyle. So, in what ways does running benefit your health? In this article, we’ll be looking at the top 8 health benefits.
1. Stronger Bones
Any physical activity that puts stress on the bones, like running, causes new bone tissue to form in the legs. As a result, runners have higher bone mineral density meaning their bones can cope with more weight and are stronger than a regular person’s bones.
Healthy bones are important for optimal health. Bones protect your organs, anchor muscles, store calcium and provide structure for the body.
Also, there’s evidence to suggest that healthier bones in runners can help prevent osteoporosis, a medical condition in which bones become brittle a fragile from a loss of tissue, affecting older people. Running helps to protect against this disease and strengthens leg bone health in general.
2. Weight loss
The issue of being overweight is crammed down our throats (ironically) by the media everywhere we look. Obesity is a health epidemic and it’s associated with a plethora of health problems, some of which can be fatal. Diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, organ failure and brittle bones are just some health issues which being overweight can cause. Nasty.
Running allows you to take ownership of your weight. As running is one of the most physically demanding activities, calories are burned quickly. If you run, you can keep your weight in check and ensure you never get to a situation where you’re so overweight it becomes unhealthy. I’ve heard unbelievable stories of severely obese people who changed their life by walking, to begin with (more on walking here) and then running.
If you’re running to lose weight, remember your workouts are only as good as your diet. Running 3 times a week for 4 miles at a time is not a get out of jail free card to stuff cakes and biscuits down your gullet like they’re going out of fashion.
Like a formula one car needs quality fuel to perform, you need nutritious food to fuel running performance and stay healthy. Don’t cut corners and use running as an excuse to eat unhealthily.
Run to lose weight, and then maintain a healthy weight.
3. Better quality sleep
Running improves your sleep quality. Particularly helpful if you have difficulty falling asleep (insomnia), running makes you feel tired at bedtime and helps you fall asleep quicker. If you run, your time spent in deep sleep increases to repair your body after your workout. This means you’re not only falling asleep easier but the sleep you’re getting restores your entire body.
Better deep sleep means improved cardiac health, immune functioning, mood, stress levels and a feeling of freshness when you wake up. Additionally, running during the day can help you sleep for longer.
If you’re like me, I sometimes struggle to get my 7-8 hours as I typically wake up once or twice during the night due to being restless in my sleep. Being a runner means your body prioritises sleep to repair itself, and the chances of waking up during the night are minuscule. For higher quality, longer and more restorative sleep, try running at least 3 times a week. 4 if you can manage it.
Note: I used to struggle beating the snooze button and getting up in the morning for a run, first thing. If you can relate, check out the blog post on how to beat the snooze button here.
4. Makes you happier
Lots of people switch off when they hear someone talking about running. If they knew that exercise – like running – makes you happier, maybe they’d reconsider their position.
identifies this as a stressful situation and the increased blood rate and pressure is interpreted as you either fighting an enemy or fleeing from one. The brain releases some chemicals (BDNF & serotonin) are released to fight stress, which is why we feel happy and mentally clear after exercising. These positive mood effects last well after the run, continuing to boost your mood in other areas of your life.
I personally noticed huge improvements in my work, relationships, and ability to focus after running regularly. Run to improve your happiness. It will not only make you feel better about yourself, but the people around you will enjoy your company more too.
Think, just how valuable a happier you could be. More joy playing with your kids, being a better romantic partner, engaging with customers and colleagues at work more sincerely. Your life will be forever changed, for the better!
5. Healthier heart
Time and time again, research proves running reduces your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and other heart-related diseases. Running regularly means the heart is being worked properly, blood clots are prevented, and blockages do not occur in the arteries and blood vessels. Being a runner means having healthy blood flow, controlled cholesterol and good blood pressure.
To help you imagine the effectiveness of running for the heart, think of a car. If a car sits in a garage for years without being used, chances are the engine will seize up and it won’t drive as efficiently. It’s difficult for the engine (the heart) to use fuel (blood) because the car hasn’t been used in so long. The human body is the same. If you don’t use your cardiovascular system, the body seizes up and you become susceptible to heart disease, high blood pressure and other nasty conditions.
Run to improve your cardiovascular health. You won’t regret it.
6. Slows down the ageing process
Being human, we’re all mortal and that means the physical decline of our bodies. A sad but true fact. However, regular exercise – running – can keep you fit and slow down the ageing process. The American journalist and sports fan Jeff Bercovici says we can combat ageing by extending our lives with exercise.
He argues by occasionally punishing our bodies by getting the heart rate up to 80% if its maximum a couple of times a week, the body rebuilds its cells stronger and tougher. The result is looking healthier and younger. We don’t just have to accept getting old and embrace our gradually winding down bodies by exercising less. Flip this mentally and run regularly. It will make you look (and importantly feel) younger.
7. Toned muscles
Those interested in building a picturesque physique will be glad to know that running tones key muscle groups in our bodies. The calves, hamstrings, quadriceps and abdominal core muscles are all toned with regular exercise.
Why does this happen? When we run, we’re putting stress and wearing away the muscles in our legs and core. The body responds by repairing these muscles with proteins, stronger and more durable to prevent them being damaged as easily again. As a result, our muscles are toned and slicker, able to take more stress before breaking down again. That, and we have the nice benefit of looking toned from a physical perspective.
For strong, toned and visually appealing muscles, run regularly. You and your health won’t regret it.
8. Improved immune system function
Evidence suggests running moderately more than 3 or 4 times a week helps to improve your overall immune system functioning. The immune system refers to the bodies defence mechanism against illness, like colds and flu. A weak immune system is characterised by constantly getting ill. If you’re always getting a cold, chances are you may not have the strongest immune system.
When you run, blood is pumped around the body at a higher rate which causes the defensive cells to circulate your system more efficiently. As a result, your body is well supplied with the right cells to defend against foreign invading cells which may cause illness.
There we have it. The top 8 health benefits of being a runner. If you found this article interesting, share it with your friends and see what they think! Subscribe to the blog for first dibs at brand new posts when they’re published!