Running is the king of cardio. Running even five to 10 minutes a day, at slow speeds (how does a nice 12-minute mile sound to you?) is associated with a drastically reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, according to a landmark study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Compared with never-runners, regular runners have half the chance of dying from heart disease. Every time you run, you decrease your resting heart rate, so your heart doesn’t need to work as hard, says exercise physiologist Greg Justice, founder of AYC Health & Fitness in Kansas City.
Running Strengthens Your Joints and Increases bone density
A Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise study of nearly 100,000 runners and walkers found that, nope, running doesn’t up the risk of osteoarthritis—even people who cover 26.2 miles on the regular. In fact, the study showed runners were half as likely to suffer from knee osteoarthritis compared with walkers. Surprised? Every time you pound the pavement, you stress your bones and cartilage, just like your muscles, causing them to spring back stronger, explains Janet Hamilton, CSCS, an exercise physiologist with Running Strong in Atlanta. Low-impact exercises like walking, or even spinning or swimming, don’t have that same bone-building benefit. Running stresses your bones. Essential minerals are sent to the bones when under stress, which makes them stronger. However, running does not make you unbreakable, and jumping, say, a 10-foot high fence is still a bad idea.
For women, running can actually help to lower your risk of breast cancer. It can also help reduce the risk of having a stroke. Many doctors today recommend running for people who are in the early stages of diabetes, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis, and it is proven to help reduce the risk of having a heart attack. By helping the arteries retain their elasticity and strengthening the heart, your chances of suffering a heart attack can be significantly reduced.
Running is one of the best forms of exercise for losing or maintaining a consistent weight. You will find that it is a leading way to burn off extra calories and that it is the second most effective exercise in terms of calories burned per minute, following only after cross country skiing.
Boost Your Confidence
Not all of the benefits of running are physical. Running can provide an noticeable boost to your confidence and self-esteem. By setting and achieving goals, you can help give yourself a greater sense of empowerment that will leave you feeling much happier.
Stress can actually cause a number of health and mood problems. It can also diminish appetite and sleep quality. When you run, you force your body to exert excess energy and hormones. Running also helps to reduce your chances of developing tension headaches.
It may seem surprising to learn all of the different ways that running can improve your health, but the truth of the matter is that these are only a few of the many benefits that it can offer to your body. Running really is incredibly beneficial to the body, mind, and spirit, and you will find that even short runs can leave you feeling more energized, more focused, and better able to enjoy all that life has to offer.
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