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How Does Running Improve Health?

10 April 2023

Running is a very popular form of exercise - perhaps the most popular form of exercise! Many people choose to run before and after their day's activities as their desired workout - whether that's out in a park or at a gym, or even at home on their own treadmill! In fact, no matter where you go, you will always see at least one person running.

A large part of this is because of how easy it is to get your daily workout through running; a treadmill is great, but running doesn't necessarily need a lot of equipment (or any equipment at all), and you can do it pretty much anywhere, at any time.

But on top of being a convenient form of exercise, running also has some major health benefits. How does running improve health? Let's take a look.

Health Benefits of Running

Cardiovascular Benefits

Running is one of the best forms of cardiovascular exercise. As you run, your muscles use up the energy they have and need more of it. This means that your heart rate increases to pump more oxygenated blood around the body so it can release more energy through respiration.

This is also why you breathe so much faster during and after running. When your heart beats so fast, the muscles get a fair amount of exercise from having to work so hard, and this improves your heart health in general. When your heart health improves, it is able to pump blood more efficiently around your body, which means your resting heart rate drops. It also results in better blood flow and greater stamina.

As you keep up your running, your heart and lungs start to adapt to the workout and become stronger. Over time, you'll realize that you're able to run a lot faster, for longer, and still not get as tired as you would at the start.

Building Muscular Strength

One of the most obvious benefits of working out is that it builds muscle mass. If you want to improve your leg strength and build muscle in your calves, running is the right way to do it. When you work your muscles beyond their usual activity, your body repairs the damaged muscle fibers by fusing muscle fibers together. This creates new muscle protein that is thicker and greater in number.

As a result, your muscles grow. These new muscle fibers aren't just thicker, they're also stronger. As you keep working out, the repair process results in more and stronger muscles over time.

Bone Density

Running doesn't just affect the muscles in your body though - it also affects the bones. When you engage in high-impact activities like running or working out, your bones have stress placed on them. This causes stimulation which results in more minerals being laid out within the bone to strengthen the structure. As a result, your bone density improves and makes them a lot stronger.

In fact, running also increases the production of hormones which results in further bone-building. When your body is making more bone cells and reducing the breakdown of bone cells, it's natural that your bone density will increase and thus, become stronger. Stronger bones are a lot more resilient in the face of high-impact activities and much less likely to fracture.

Losing Unhealthy Weight

A major benefit of running is the one that most people use as motivation to run - losing weight. While weight is a complicated topic, it is true that running helps lose some of the unhealthy weight that accumulates. When your calorie intake is more than your body needs, it stores the extra calories in the form of fat deposits around the body. This causes weight gain, and if it gets out of hand, even obesity!

Because running involves the need for more energy, more calories have to be burnt. Therefore, your body turns to these fat deposits as a way to get this extra energy and thus gets rid of them for you. As a result, you lose weight.

Improved Health Markers

When looking at health, most people don't think about things like bone density though. There are certain health markers that people look at and try to maintain. Studies have shown that running can affect all of these! Running improves cardiovascular health, which results in lower blood pressure and resting heart rate.

It also results in better control over blood sugar, lower levels of triglycerides, and low cholesterol levels. On top of this, it also reduces your body fat percentage, which helps prevent problems like diabetes and lets you feel healthier in general.

Reducing Stress

Running isn't just great for your body physically, but also for your mental wellness. Running causes the production of cortisol to decrease. Cortisol is the stress hormone that your body makes in a crisis situation, and with higher levels of cortisol in your body, you're going to be stressed even when you have nothing to be stressed about.

With running, since cortisol levels are lowered, you feel more relaxed. That's why if you're struggling with something that's stressing you out, a 10-minute run can help clear your head!

In fact, because of the endorphins released while running - or any kind of workout, really - you are also less likely to feel depressed or upset.

Improves Sleep

Good sleep is necessary for health. Not only do you need rest, but sleeping is when your body goes through its various repair processes and helps you stay healthy and refreshed.

When you run, your body gets tired out, which results in you feeling sleepier. Without cortisol running through your blood, and your body needing those repairs, you get to sleep a lot better after a run than you would otherwise.

However, you do have to be careful about what time of the day you do your running. Running doesn't just reduce cortisol, it also results in higher levels of endorphins in your blood, and these activate the brain. As a result, you'll feel a lot more awake for a few hours after your run.

It's best to take a good run during the evening so you can get time for the high to wear off, and feel sleepy right around a suitable bedtime.

Better Memory

Did you know running can also improve your memory? Running results in more blood rushing to your brain, which can boost the size of your hippocampus, which is the part of your brain responsible for learning and memory.

In fact, by getting enough exercise, you can also prevent diseases that affect the brain like Alzheimer's' or Parkinson's.

Better Resistance to Colds

Running can also do wonders to improve your immunity. Not only does it make your immune system stronger, but it also helps lower the risk of specific types of infections. Because running involves a lot of heavy breathing to make up for the oxygen debt, the health of your lungs and respiratory tract improves, and thus, so does your immunity against infections that could affect these parts. In fact, running every day can reduce your risk of respiratory infections by about half!

Tips For Healthy Running

Simply running doesn't just help though. As with all things, you need to run the right way to get any benefit out of it.

For one, you need to eat a healthy and balanced diet. If your body isn't getting enough nutrients, it won't be able to repair itself after the workout or release enough energy, to begin with. But avoid eating right before or after eating. You need to wait for it to digest well first.

Also make sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your run so you don't end up dehydrated.

Be sure to stay aware of your body's limitations. Pushing yourself further than your body is capable of can result in injuries and sprains. If you get injured while running, don't continue! Stop there and get medical attention immediately. Also, make sure to take regular breaks during your run so you don't exhaust yourself too much.

The best runs will be those that also allow you to get some fresh air - such as in a park or an open running track. But not everyone has access to these, and this can be a bit disheartening. However, running is always better than not running.

Even if you don't particularly like running indoors, going to a gym, or getting your own treadmill like Flexispot's Foldable Treadmill can help. This way, you can run whenever you want, without being restricted by the location.