The health benefits of running

Baby, we were born to run. The way we have evolved over millennia, the proportions of our bodies, our bone structure and cardiovascular and respiratory systems, etc., have made us very suited to endurance activities such as long-distance running. And because we were designed for it, we gain plenty of great health benefits from running, in both body and mind. From weight control and better focus to a healthier heart, let’s look at some of the biggest benefits to motivate you to get out for a run today.

Health benefits of running: Running benefits for the body

Keep that ticker ticking – cardiovascular fitness is important for good heart health. Running is an excellent way to get ‘heart fit’. Running even for a short time (like 5 to 10 minutes) each day can have significant improvement on the health of your heart. Running also helps optimise your body mass index (BMI), lowers cholesterol and blood pressure – all music to your heart’s ears.

Strengthen knees – While it might sound counterintuitive – especially if you picture all the runners you see pounding the pavement in cities around the world – running can actually strengthen your knees. Regular runners usually have an easier time controlling their weight, which takes pressure off their joints, including their knees. Along with this, running will help strengthen leg muscles as well as bones, meaning you have a better support structure for those precious knees of yours.

Burn, baby, burn – Running is the de facto king of the calorie burn. If you want to torch fat or simply control your weight, adding running to your workout routine can work wonders for your goals. The time you need to devote to running will depend on your calorie-burning objectives and your current weight. But running at about 5 mph for an hour will likely burn upwards of 600 calories. If you prefer to burn calories faster, you can introduce more high-intensity running into your training. High intensity interval training (HIIT), for example, has become very popular over the last few years with people looking to burn fat in a short space of time.

Don’t fear the reaper – Regular exercise, whether it’s 30 minutes or more, can reduce your chance of death from any cause. If ever there was motivation to get out and move around, this one is it.

Health benefits of running: The mental benefits of running

Destroy depression – Spending even a short time out on the track, treadmill or trail can work wonders for your mood. And you don’t even have to go full throttle to receive the benefits. Spending about 30 minutes jogging, or even walking, can help lift your mood significantly. So, if you’re feeling low, get out for a run (or walk) and feel better.

Get better sleep – Good sleep is vital for all sorts of health reasons, including brain function, the immune system and even losing weight. Running is a great way of improving your sleep. And, again, it’s not like you need to run a marathon to get these sleep benefits. About 30 minutes a day, five times a week, at a reasonable pace can work wonders for your sleep patterns, helping you get a better quality of sleep and leading to better functioning during the day.

Keep your mind young – Cardio or aerobic exercise is better than all the brain-boosting super-foods out there. Of course, maintaining a healthy diet is important for overall health – but when it comes to brainpower and keeping your mind young as you age, nothing beats running. Regular exercise can help improve memory, focus and concentration, and your ability to move from task to task. As you look to stay as physically fit and healthy as possible, don’t forget to keep the mind young too.

Reduce stress – Put down that after-work glass of wine and get out for a run. The stress relief you may get from a drink is nothing compared to the power of a good evening jog. When we run, our brains release endorphins that improve our mood and help relieve stress levels. There is even research that suggests the chemicals released in your brain when you run can actually generate new neurons, effectively ‘rewiring’ your brain to cope better with stress in the long term.

Born to run

A lot of us lead very sedentary lives. We drive or take a train to our jobs where we likely spend a large portion of our day sitting at a desk, working at a screen. Our food choices may be based more on convenience rather than with health in mind. It is for these reasons that it’s more important than ever to make sure we get enough exercise throughout the week. Running is one of the best, cheapest and easiest ways of getting out of your chair and into the fresh air. For all the benefits above, and more, once you start you’ll quickly remember that Baby, we were born to run.