12 Health Benefits of Running
Ever wondered what running regularly can do for your physical and mental health? This science-backed guide unpacks 12 health benefits of running, covering everything from lowering blood pressure to boosting your mood!
- Running strengthens cardiovascular health, significantly lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease, even with just brief daily sessions.
- Regular running improves mental well-being, releasing endorphins to alleviate anxiety and depression, and also enhances cognitive function and energy levels.
- Aside from boosting mental and heart health, running contributes to overall physical fitness by increasing metabolism, bone density, and immune system strength, while aiding in weight management and sleep quality.
1. Lowers Blood Pressure
Studies suggest that running regularly can effectively manage high blood pressure, a common issue in modern lifestyles. Regular running improves blood circulation and reduces the strain on the heart. This results in a decrease in systolic blood pressure, similar to the effects of commonly used medications - a natural solution indeed!
There’s no need to fret if you’re not marathon-ready yet. Higher intensity interval training, a form of moderate exercise that alternates between high and low intensity periods, is ideal for improving blood pressure. Reducing resting blood pressure through running also promotes a stronger heart.
2. Strengthens Heart Muscles
One of the many benefits of running is promoting a stronger heart. Regular running increases the heart’s oxygen intake ability, leading to improved cardiovascular health. It’s clear without needing an exercise physiologist, a healthier heart equates to a lower cardiovascular disease risk.
Even just five to ten minutes of running a day at a slow speed can make a significant difference. Compared to non-runners, regular runners have a lower risk of dying from heart disease. This emphasizes the health benefits that regular running can offer. Every step and mile you run contributes not only to your fitness but also to active heart protection.
3. Alleviates Anxiety
Running, while enhancing physical health, but research strongly suggests that it serves as a potent tool for mental well-being too. Running releases endorphins and endocannabinoids, natural mood-boosters that have calming effects. These chemicals aid in stress reduction and promotion of relaxation, thus making running a valuable strategy for anxiety relief.
Think of running as a form of moving meditation. Each stride not only works your muscles but also fosters mental clarity and positive thoughts. The ‘runner’s high’ is not just a myth; it’s a real, tangible feeling that many runners find elevating and soothing.
Running, with its benefits ranging from cardiovascular health enhancement to anxiety alleviation, truly serves as a comprehensive health solution, especially in healthy adolescents compared to their less active peers.
4. Combats Depression
Depression, a pervasive mental health issue, can also be mitigated by regular running. By increasing serotonin levels and promoting the release of feel-good hormones, running can naturally and effectively improve mental health.
Running doesn’t only offer a post-run feel-good factor; it brings about long-term, sustained positive effects on our mood and perspective.
Studies indicate that exercise, including running, is as effective as psychotherapy and prescribed medications in treating depression. There is also research regarding trail running and its many mood-boosting benefits. Thus, if you’re feeling down, consider adding running to your routine. It might just be the mood booster you need!
5. Burns Calories
If you’re aiming to lose weight, running can be an ideal partner in your journey. A potent calorie-burner, studies show that running can lead to significant weight loss alongside a healthy diet and help maintain a healthy body weight. A person, on an average, can burn approximately 100 calories for every mile run. That’s a significant calorie burn for just a few minutes of exercise each day!
Running consistently for over a year can lead to a noticeable decrease in body mass and body fat percentage, suggesting enduring improvements in body composition. Consider it a long-term investment towards your health. Not only does running help you shed unwanted pounds, but it also improves your metabolism.
6. Boosts Metabolism
Running not only incinerates calories during the activity but also enhances your metabolism, resulting in more calories burned even at rest. This is due to the increased muscle mass from regular running, which raises your body’s basal metabolic rate.
Running has multiple mechanisms that contribute to better weight management, such as heightened calorie burn during and after exercise, improved metabolic function, and better regulation of weight overall. So, even when you’re not running, your body is still working, burning calories, and using energy more efficiently.
It’s as if your body is running a marathon, even when you’re at rest!
7. Improves Sleep Quality
Struggling with sleepless nights? Running could be the solution to your sleep issues. Regular running can improve your sleep quality by regulating your sleep-wake cycle and helping you fall asleep faster. This is largely due to the stress-relieving effects of running, which can help promote relaxation and better sleep.
Running has numerous health benefits, including:
- Increasing adenosine production in the brain, which promotes sleepiness and improves sleep quality and duration
- Improving blood pressure
- Enhancing overall health
The health benefits of running are comprehensive and can greatly improve your well-being, especially when you join a local running club. Studies even show that exercising at night actually improves ease of falling-asleep and the quality of sleep!
8. Strengthens Immune System
Running not only makes you stronger but also contributes to better health. One of the many benefits of running is its positive impact on the immune system. Running stimulates activity in the lymphoid and blood tissues, helping the body monitor cells, decrease inflammation, and recognize foreign pathogens like viruses, bacteria, and precancerous or cancerous cells.
Even rigorous, long-distance running can positively influence immune health, as it may temporarily boost immunity due to various peripheral factors such as improved cardiovascular health and overall fitness.
Research provides evidence that running can improve the body’s surveillance against disease and so much more! So, whether you’re running a few miles or training for a marathon, you’re bolstering your immune system with every step.
9. Running Is GOOD For Your Knees
Contrary to popular belief, running is actually beneficial for your knees. While it's a widespread misconception that running can lead to knee problems, research shows otherwise. Running can help maintain a healthy weight, which is crucial for knee health as extra weight can put unnecessary strain on your knees.
Moreover, running helps strengthen the muscles around the knees, aiding in better support and less stress on the joints.
Additionally, running increases bone density, which can help prevent osteoarthritis, a common knee ailment.
10. Prevents Cognitive Decline
Running not only improves your physical health but also hones your mind. Regular running can:
- Increase blood flow to the brain
- Promote the release of a protein called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF)
- Protect against cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease
Running has the potential to:
- Increase the size of the hippocampus, a key brain region for verbal memory and learning
- Improve overall cognitive function and health
- Keep your body fit
- Keep your mind sharp
A study even shows that high fitness improves total brain volume! Running indeed impacts every facet of your health, from your heart to your mind, as research published has shown!
11. Elevates Energy
Feeling lethargic? Running could be the energy booster you need. Running increases the production of mitochondria inside muscle cells, turning glucose and oxygen into fuel. It also improves oxygen circulation, which supports mitochondrial function and helps the body use energy more efficiently.
Engaging in at least 20 minutes of regular aerobic exercise like running is necessary to enhance feelings of energy. So, if you’re looking to feel more energetic and alive, consider adding running, a form of physical activity, to your routine. It’s not just about physical fitness; it’s about feeling good and energetic, too!
12. Stress Relief
In this fast-paced world, stress is inevitable. But running can provide a much-needed relief. Allowing you to disconnect from daily stressors and focus on the present moment, running can decrease stress levels and improve mental health, making you feel more relaxed and positive.
Running not only boosts your physical health but also improves your psychological functioning. It instills a sense of empowerment and achievement, positively impacting stress levels. So, the next time stress hits you, consider going for a run in your local park - one of the multiple benefits that regular exercise offers.
From boosting heart health to enhancing mental well-being and bone health, running offers a plethora of mental and physical benefits. It has the potential to lower blood pressure, strengthen heart muscles, alleviate anxiety, combat depression, burn calories, boost metabolism, improve sleep quality, strengthen the immune system, increase bone density, and cognitive benefits, elevate energy levels, and provide stress relief!
Running is more than just a form of exercise; it’s a holistic health solution. So, why wait? Lace up those running shoes, hit the track, and start reaping the health benefits of running today. Remember, every step you take is a step towards better health and well-being.
Author: Nick Hancock is a UESCA Certified Ultrarunning coach and UK Athletics Coach in Running Fitness (CiRF) and has coached many busy professionals and parents to achieve finishes, top-10s and podiums in events such as London Marathon, Manchester Marathon, Amsterdam Marathon, UTMB, UTS, Centurion events, Endure24, Backyards and many more. Host of the Maximum Mileage Running Podcast and author of the Ultimate Cookbook for Runners
He can be found on Instagram @runwithnick