Running is one of the most popular ways to get in your recommended 150-300 minutes of exercise per week. In fact, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, over 50 million Americans jog or run regularly. But is running good for you?
Running is an easy-to-learn and accessible form of exercise that can have you exploring your local area or getting fit on one a treadmill. There are even different types of running to choose from; sprinting, long-distance, trail running, intervals, and more.
Motivations for getting into running are varied, but improving your overall fitness is a common one. Depending on your goals, using one or a mixture of running styles can help you challenge yourself and reap plenty of benefits, not just better health. Running does not have to be a solo activity either; you can join a local running club or gym for social exercise. While hitting the curb may seem appealing, we’ll be delving into the details to find out if running is really that good for you.
What does running do to your body and mind?
Running regularly can have a wide range of benefits for your body. According to experts at Public Health England, running, along with most forms of exercise, can reduce the risk of cardiovascular issues, type two diabetes, cancer, and other physical ailments. The CDC also adds that running as part of your daily routine can also help build stronger bones and muscles while managing your weight and improving sleep.
These benefits can significantly improve your overall quality of life as well as your self-confidence. However, it is vital to remember that running could cause injury, especially if you overdo it.
A 2014 study in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, found that when 202 runners were assessed over one year, “Novice runners who progressed their running distance by more than 30% over a 2-week period seem to be more vulnerable to distance-related injuries than runners who increase their running distance by less than 10%.”
In other words, pushing yourself too hard is more likely to cause injuries. Common injuries that runners experience include:
- Plantar fasciitis: a pain in the bottom of your foot or in your heel area
- Achilles tendinitis: The inflammation of a tendon in the calf caused by overuse
- Runner’s knee: Pain around the kneecap or general knee area, also known as Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
- ITB syndrome: Short for iliotibial band syndrome, this is an injury to your IT band, which extends down the length of your outer thigh
- Shin splints: a type of shin pain, usually improved with rest, ice, and gentle exercise
- Stress fractures: A small crack in a bone caused by repeated stress over time. May present as bruising
Injuries like the ones above are normally treatable with ice, medication, and plenty of rest. However, we recommend consulting a doctor if you experience ongoing issues. To avoid injuries like these, it is important to wear proper footwear, stretch carefully, build your endurance gradually, and listen to what your body needs.
So, running can be good for you provided that you take care of yourself while you train.
The mental impact of running
In terms of the mental impact of running, it is possible that training can improve your mental health and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. As exercise raises your endorphin levels, it stimulates the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which is connected to your mood. This stimulation can help relieve the effects of mild depression and anxiety. A 2020 study regarding running and mental health concluded that “running has important positive implications for mental health, particularly depression and anxiety disorders.” In other words, it is well-documented by professionals that running, and exercise in general, can positively impact your mental health.
While the benefits for some people are clear, motivation techniques and professional help may need to be utilized as well. As one study from 2012 put it, “A challenge of the study lies in the motivational techniques needed to exercise with depressed patients, which is proven to be difficult and it will take a serious effort not to exceed the calculated 30% drop-out patients in the intervention group.” It can be hard to motivate yourself to work out when going through a depressive or anxious period. Talking to a medical professional can help you start on a journey to manage your mental well-being.
What are the benefits of running?
If you are thinking about dusting off your running gear, there are plenty of benefits to making running a regular part of your routine. According to experts at Sports Medicine Australia, some of the benefits include:
- Building strong bones
- Strengthened muscles
- Improved cardiovascular fitness
- Effective weight loss or management
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Lower stress levels
- Improved sleep
Running is not only excellent for its benefits – but it is also relatively easy to get into, and often free. It’s an activity that does not necessarily demand a heavy time or financial investment to fit into your life. Running can be done almost anywhere and does not have a steep learning curve. If you’re struggling to get started, try adding another walk into your routine each day, consulting a personal trainer, or teaming up with a running buddy.
Chloe Page is a UK-based freelance writer and editor with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing from the University of Winchester. Over the span of her seven-year freelancing career, Chloe has covered various niches, including health, fitness, plumbing, entertainment, and music. Her work includes interactive fiction, blog posts, and web copy. When she’s not writing, Chloe enjoys streaming, cycling, and trying new recipes.
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