Exercise is medicine, and running is one of the best kinds – no equipment or accessories needed. If you ever thought about taking it up as a hobby, there are some huge benefits to running like the fact that it increases your cardiovascular capacity, burns calories and can help with weight loss, relieves stress, gets you outdoors, helps fight osteoporosis (1), and best of all, it’s free!
If you're not a runner, you probably envy the ones you see out and about every day. Let's sprint on and see what important benefits you can gain from breaking a sweat other than getting some fresh air and peace and quiet.
Why is running good for you
1. Running or jogging keeps your bones strong
As running is a weight-bearing exercise, it's been shown to help build bone density in the legs, hips and lower spine – keeping them strong in the long run (2). Particularly when we start entering our 30s and over, there is a steady decline in bone density and an increased risk of developing osteoporosis.
2. Running can help you manage your weight
Running can also help keep your weight in check. Obese adults have a five-time higher risk of developing osteoporosis, as well as other health issues like osteoarthritis and high blood pressure when compared to people of a healthier weight. Also, research has shown that compared to non-runners, those who ran regularly had a 45% lower risk of cardiovascular disease (3). It's no secret that regular exercise like running has been shown to help keep arteries and other blood vessels flexible – good blood flow and normal blood pressure and cholesterol are integral in maintaining a long, healthy and happy lifestyle.
3. Running can help with your stress levels
Running can also help lower blood pressure and decrease the production of glucose, cutting the risk of developing diabetes. And it goes beyond the physical – the endurance sport can bolster mental clarity, manage your cortisol levels and symptoms of stress, and flush out toxins, leading to healthier skin and a healthier outlook on life!
How to prepare for a long distance run or beginner's run
If you're a regular runner or have never tried endurance training, there are some considerations to be mindful of with what to do before jogging or before you head out for a long run:
• Make sure you mix up your fitness regime – you don’t want to ONLY be running as this will take a toll on your joints (especially in the knees and ankles). Your body will adapt to just running, so over time, you won’t be challenging yourself. In fact, some research suggests that any more than 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week, of moderate intensity may actually increase the risk of damaging your heart (4).
• Switch up your morning – by cross training to keep your body guessing and increase your power and strength. Focus on your core, strength and conditioning and stretch with exercises in yoga, weights, TRX and pilates. This will ensure that you improve your speed and reduce the risk of injury.
• Try interspersing your run with bench work – tricep dips, toe taps, mountain climbers, and burpees.
• Watch the mileage you’re clocking up – and don’t ignore skeletal niggles (hips and knees) as they’ll only get worse and interfere with your progress. Ignoring aches and pains could lead to serious injury if left unchecked, which will be a real pain for your exercise routine as well as your body.
• Losing plumpness in your face – it’s true that running is superb at torching calories, but you can go too far and end up with ‘runner’s face’. Your cheeks might start to sag from all the bouncing while you run, and there is a chance you will see signs of premature ageing from too much fat burning beneath the skin. There’s a debate over whether this is just an urban legend, but better to be safe than sorry.
• Stay safe from the sun – make sure you wear proper sunscreen when you go running, as this is often overlooked, and lack of protection can lead to serious damage to your skin.
• Remember to keep hydrated – female runners should up their calcium and iron intake as well, as these can easily get depleted.
• Invest in the best bra you can find – a properly fitted sports bra that ensures no jiggle whatsoever. It doesn’t matter if you’re an A cup or a GG.
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1. US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26178328
2. NOS: https://nos.org.uk/about-osteoporosis/your-bone-strength/bone-building-exercise/
3. American College of Cardiology: https://www.acc.org/about-acc/press-releases/2014/07/29/09/32/leisure-running-jacc-pr
4. Harvard Medical School: https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/how-much-exercise-is-optimal-for-heart-health