Running is a natural movement. People have been running for thousands of years to catch their prey or avoid their predators. It is also part of many games with even the smallest children running around for their enjoyment. Eventually, it evolved into serious competition with athletes competing to see who can run the fastest or the longest. Some run a few hundred meters at maximum effort. Others run a hundred miles across mountains. The distance and terrain largely dictate the type of training required to complete these activities. They also trigger different physical and mental adaptations over time.
The vast majority of runners run for health and fitness rather than for competition. After all, the biggest prizes are in road marathons with tens of thousands of participants and only a handful of winners. People sign up not to battle with the elites but to achieve their own personal goals. They use the sport as a vehicle to get to their targets which vary over time. It might be a new personal record or a simple completion. They might not even go to races and just run for fun around their neighborhoods every day. Such a routine can bring about several physical and mental health benefits.
Physical Health Benefits
1. Weight Loss
Running is a full-body movement with a high caloric expenditure. The body burns a massive amount of calories per hour and this helps to get rid of excess weight. Anyone who is thinking about shedding pounds should consider this highly efficient activity to attain their desired results safely within a reasonable period. This does not require fast and intense runs. Slow and steady is more effective in depleting the fat stores so this should be within the ability of most people. The guidance of a fitness professional can help immensely in any weight loss program. They can also make sure that the weight loss is sustainable.
2. Cardiovascular Fitness
Runners develop stronger lungs and heart. Although they might have to gasp for air during their first few attempts, their bodies eventually adapt to the stress. They also learn to slow down to a more manageable pace so that they can move smoothly with minimal effort. They are able to breathe better and even carry a conversation while running. Their heart get stronger and larger over time, allowing it to pump blood more efficiently across the body. This is critical in the delivery of oxygen to the working muscles. They can also run longer without feeling tired.
3. Joint and Muscle Strength
There is a misconception that running is bad for the joints but it can actually be beneficial with the correct training load. With gradual build-up and adequate recovery, the body should be able to adapt to the stress and become more resilient over time. The bones will increase in density as a response to the activity. The muscles will also get stronger. For example, the uphill runs that used to punish the legs will become manageable. The downhill runs that made the knees and feet hurt will become enjoyable. The important thing is to prevent doing too much too soon to prevent injuries.
4. Control Blood Pressure
There is evidence to suggest that running can help people control their blood pressure. Those who wish to lower their BP without taking an excessive amount of medication may opt to take this route instead with their doctor’s approval. The risk of hypertension goes up with age but interventions such as exercise can bring this back down. It does not require high intensity or long distance running. Half an hour of aerobic activity every day is good enough. A consistent routine can be good enough to manage BP by developing a stronger heart, reducing arterial force, and maintaining a healthy weight. A sedentary individual can begin to see a difference after three months of continued exercise.
5. Prevent Diseases
Studies have suggested that running and similar activities can help prevent a wide range of chronic diseases. This form of exercise can reduce the risk of developing some forms of cancer, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and heart disease. The key is to make it part of one’s lifestyle for consistency. Prevention is always better than cure because it is cheaper and easier to deal with. Although exercise may seem like a massive chore for those who are not used to physical activity, it can become an enjoyable part of daily life with the right mindset and enough time for adjustments.
Mental Health Benefits
1. Mood Improvement
It can be difficult to drag one’s self out of bed early in the morning to go for a run but things get better once you get going as the adrenaline kicks in. The body also releases feel-good hormones such as endorphins that improve mood and trigger’s the so-called “runner’s high”. Brain chemicals aside, knowing that you were able to start your day in such a productive manner and overcoming the difficulties to complete your daily goal can feel immensely satisfying. Seemingly insurmountable goals such as completing a marathon for the first time or losing a certain amount of weight becomes achievable with small but meaningful strides. Everyone loves this sense of accomplishment.
2. Good Habit Formation
Many of those who have succumbed to chain-smoking, alcoholism, and substance abuse turned to running during their recoveries. It served as a way to push out their bad habits and replace them with a good habit that actually improved their health. Running can help minimize anxiety by grounding people in the present moment and helping them to focus on their immediate task instead of craving for their substance of choice. It also helps them reconnect with their bodies and take better care of it. They realize how much better they feel when engaged in exercise and how well they look afterwards.
3. Confidence Boost
There is no denying that running is a challenge even for the most experienced athletes. However, it can always be tailored to each individual to make it a feasible part of the regular routine. Those who are able to stick to this healthy habit find that they have less excess fat and more lean muscles. They look and feel better about themselves. They love looking at the mirror and telling people about their activities knowing that they are doing good things. After years of struggle, they can finally regain their confidence and learn to appreciate themselves a little more.
4. Strong Social Bonds
Through running, people can meet like-minded individuals who can share the fitness journey with them. It is a long and difficult road so having companions who can cheer you on and inspire you to continue is a big help. Many runners join local running clubs or run with their friends. Training together creates stronger bonds through shared experiences. You go through the same ups and downs. You are there to give each other the extra push needed to go on when you feel like quitting. You are the first to notice improvements and celebrate them together. Having such a positive support network is vital for mental health.
5. Time in Nature
Most runners prefer going outside where they can spend time with nature. Research suggests that this contributes to a feeling of well-being. It should be no surprise that many prefer to job in public parks under the shaded trees. Others might even head for the trails for an even bigger playground. You don’t just have a longer and wider path compared to treadmills or track ovals. You also have better views with trees all around and the sky above. You also get a good dose of Vitamin D while moving under the sun. Stress levels go down while energy goes up.
Running is one of the best exercises that individuals can include to their regular routines. It is accessible in terms of the necessary skills, experience, and equipment. Anyone can start to run in a snap and experience the benefits. Those who can develop the habit can find themselves looking and feeling better than ever.