Does everyone need to run? No. But are there some significant benefits of running? Yes.
Not only will you learn an incredible amount about yourself, but you’ll learn really cool things like running is NOT BAD for your knees because it provides joint lubrication and active people have better mobility and joints than those hanging out on the couch talking about how bad it is for our knees.
As a certified running coach and personal trainer, having researched thousands of articles and book, as well as having run over 26,000 miles I’m not here to just give you opinions about why we enjoy it, but some data that says we aren’t crazy for doing it.
Is Running Good For You?
A 2014 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed just five to 10 minutes a day of low-intensity running could extend your life by years! Not days, years.
That was followed up in a 2017 study showing “25%-40% reduced risk of premature mortality and [runners] live approximately 3 years longer than non-runners“.
With all of these, why do so many still thing running is bad for us?
- It’s hard!!!
- People get injured (funny story, they get injured in every sport a hazard of movement)
- Everyone knows someone who used to run and doesn’t now
- Too many runners for too many years didn’t strength train or cross train
Exploring the Benefits of Running
We’ve already shown that running can actually extend your lifespan, what more could you want? Let’s talk about the why’s and how’s and soon you’ll be ready to lace up or tell others exactly why you do it.
Are all the reported benefits true?
Which ones might actually apply to you?
Let’s find out what’s a real benefit and what’s a little more hype.
1.Does running improve heart health?
Yes, they have shown a reduction in age-related heart issues from running.
As we age our arteries can stiffen, leading to higher blood pressure. A recent study followed 130 people through training for the London marathon and found it improved cardiovascular health no matter how fast or slow they went.
2. Does running help depression?
It is not an immediate fix, but there is data to show that within a few weeks the hippocampus begins to grow. This area of the brain is responsible for mood regulation and it’s growth can help.
Additionally, many cite that getting outside to run means:
- access to Vitamin D
- time in nature nature
- disconnecting from things like the news and social media
- increase in dopamine (feel good hormone)
All pieces that can boost our mood.
The runner’s high that many of us talk about is part of an entire system of hormones that induce a feeling of calm as well. Again we’re seeing this is about consistency of the workout to see benefits.
So yes, it can help improve mood. But shouldn’t be considered the only solution for those dealing with depression and not just a bad mood.
3. Does running improve sleep?
Yes, getting your daily sweat on whether from running or other exercise can improve not only the ability to fall asleep, but your quality of sleep. It appears to increase the amount of time you spend in deep sleep, which is where you get the most benefits for recovery both physical and mental.
Again, studies show you only need 30 minutes of consistent cardio for this benefit to kick in over time.
Of course like anything, if you overdo a good thing it goes bad. Suddenly having trouble sleeping when you’ve been increasing your mileage is a sign that you need a rest day.
4. Does running improve your memory?
Yes. Whether you’re looking to ace a test or just remember where you put your keys, it looks like running can help!
Increased blood flow to the brain helps it to receive more nutrients, which means assisting in the creation of neurons to ensure all our pathways for cognitive thinking stay in tact. One study looked specifically at women with some mild cognitive decline and found significant increases in the hippocampus, which is needed for learning and memory!
Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s chances can be decreased thanks to the creation of a protein in the brain that’s critical for decision making.
All in all, studies fully agree that consistent exercise helps. And the coordination of movements through running may be part of what helps increase these factors.
BONUS: I’ve already told you that running makes us better employees! As someone running my own business, I can vouch for better productivity after a run.
5. Is Running Good for Bone Density?
Yes…ish. It absolutely helps, but cannot be the only thing you rely on.
Studies have shown that the high impact of running helps to promote bone density growth, but you also need to include strength training for maximum benefits.
This is because the bone building is only happening where the stress occurs. Ie. while running you aren’t impacting your arms, but you are strengthening the spine and legs. Again, we’re reminded that the benefits of running come from the fact that it challenges us.
Equally important is a study fro 1986 showing “There were no differences between groups in joint space narrowing, crepitation, joint stability, or symptomatic osteoarthritis.”
In other words, running isn’t bad for your knees!
Best ways to build bone density:
- Strength training
BONUS: If you are worried about joint health, checkout my video of 5 Tips to Improve Joint Health. Swear by these tips, especially for runners.
6. Does running help you lose weight?
Running can be part of a smart weight loss strategy. But as we know it’s not the whole enchilada, you have to change eating habits and pick up weights.
- Glucose (sugar) in the blood is able to be used for energy to burn during a workout
- Glycerol which breaks down fatty tissue is released
- Increase in circulation helps all your organs do their job (yes natural detoxing)
Checkout these running for weight loss tips to put it all together.Benefits of Running | Real or Hype? Is Running Good For you? Click To Tweet
7. What does 30 minutes of running do?
Maybe one of the big things to debunk around running is that you need to run for hours or train for a marathon. Just 30 minutes 3-5 days a week is enough to see all of the benefits we’ve discussed!
In the end, there are three really big takeaways from nearly every study on the benefits of running:
- The benefits don’t show up from one run, it’s about the consistency of doing it every week.
- This doesn’t mean going out to sprint every day, they are usually talking about moderate intensity (easy running) for just 30 minutes to start seeing benefits.
- Nearly ANY form of exercise that increases your heart rate is good, so find what works for you if you truly dislike running.
And a finally thing is to know that the benefits of strength training are enhanced when you combine it with all of these cardio benefits. So a well rounded training plan is really the key to optimal health and longevity.
8. Running Makes Life More Fun
Now that we’ve gotten through the science, let’s hit on the reasons that so many runners show up day after day without even knowing these things!
- It gives you a personal challenge that’s not tied to a job.
- It allows you to see the world in entirely new ways (hello, not from a car window).
- It provides a reason to get outside in nature and time to be away from everything on your to do list.
- It relieves the guilt of time with a friend by giving you a reason: “we’re training for a half marathon, gotta do it“.
- It provides an immediate sense of accomplishment.
- It reminds you that you are capable of handling hard things, which quickly translates in to your daily life.
My reasons for running include everything listed above and so much more.
Running isn’t a must for a great life, but it sure is a good way to make life better.
Other ways to connect with Amanda
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