Benefits of Running Daily: A Healthy Body and Mind

Every day, we eat to improve nutrition, make a to-do list to stay on task and then go to bed so we can get enough rest to begin the pattern all over again tomorrow. There are many things we do daily without consciously thinking about the advantages, but maybe it’s time to start. For example, once you understand the benefits of running daily, you might be more eager to add it to your routine. 

How you choose to exercise is a very personal choice. You may have considered running but thought it was too hard, that you can’t find the time or believe you don’t have the stamina. The following benefits of running daily could change your mind.

Health Benefits of Running

1. Disease prevention. Daily running can help prevent obesity, which is linked to a variety of diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, strokes, high blood pressure and some cancers. Running has also been shown to enhance the quality of life for those undergoing cancer treatments.

2. Weight loss and fitness. The trick to weight loss is burning more calories than you take in. Running helps you do this both during and after exercise, a phenomenon called “after burn.” As an added plus, you don’t have to run as fast as Olympic medalist sprinter Usain Bolt to get this benefit. Running at a pace that’s just faster than what’s easy for you is enough. A typical hour-long run burns about 600 calories. Running is one of the best ways to tone muscle and runners also tend to have a lower BMI and less belly fat than non-runners.

3. Strengthens your joints and knees. You may have heard that running is bad for your knees, perhaps because runners sometimes suffer knee injuries, but that’s a myth. The truth is that running can help prevent age-related bone loss. Researchers from Arthritis Care and Research found that runners who ran the most had the least amount of knee pain over time. In the study, only a small percentage of the runners participating described themselves as competitive runners, concluding that a history of leisure running can have a significant effect on knee and joint health. Another report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that running actually decreases your risk of developing osteoarthritis, since it enhances the flow of nutrients
to the cartilage in your knees.

4. Increase your longevity. Doctors and health experts recommend getting 30 minutes of exercise at least five times a week for maximum benefit. This is not just talk. According to a major study by The Public Library of Science (PLOS) Medicine journal, indicates that people who exercise live longer. Nonsmokers gained three years, smokers and those with heart disease added four years and cancer survivors extended their lifespan by more than five years. In another study by the Archives of Internal Medicine, where they followed 1,000 participants 50 and older, 85 percent of runners were still alive after 20 years, compared to only 66 percent of nonrunners.

5. Boosts your immune system. The British Journal of Sports Medicine conducted a study which found that running and other forms of aerobic exercise resulted in fewer respiratory tract infections. Those in the study who did catch a cold experienced less severity in symptoms. So get running and show that common cold who’s the boss.

Mental Benefits of Running 

1. Studies show that regular exercise, especially running, just makes you feel better. Getting some fresh air can help to lift your mood, improve your sleep and increase your concentration.

2. Protects against anxiety and depression. Even after you are done working out, the coping benefits can last throughout the day. A study in Physiology and Behavior proved that running creates the same kind of neurochemical brain response that addictive drugs produce. This is sometimes called a “runner’s high” and it is real. 

3. Mental sharpness is improved. Time and again, studies have proven that regular exercise and running increases brain function overall. Elderly people who are more in shape than their peers consistently test higher in mental tests. This is particularly true when subjects are tested on factors like attention and memory. In fact, stroke patients who get regular exercise showed significant progress in language, concentration, judgment and thinking skills.

4. Running has meditative qualities. You can choose to run with a friend or in a group, but there is also the peace of mind that comes from running alone. With or without headphones, you can tune out the world and become one with your thoughts.

Lesser-known but True Benefits of Running

1. Running can make your commute easier. Exercising before work can make you happier and more relaxed. Heck, if you live close enough to your workplace, running can become your commute.

2. Helps increase your vitamin D supply. The biggest supplier of vitamin D is the sun but humans are now spending an amazing amount of time indoors. Going outside during the day for your run exposes you to more sunlight.

3. Running saves you money. Unlike many other forms of exercise, running requires very little equipment. It’s just you, your body weight and your legs that give you one of the best workouts in the world. You don’t need weights, special machines, or extensive training (after all, you’ve known how to run since you were a little kid). Get a good pair of running shoes, socks, shorts and a t-shirt and you are ready.

4. You can eat more of the foods you like. Carbohydrates are a runner’s best ally. Foods like pasta, bread and even candy can help you stay energized, perform better and recover quicker before, during and after a run.

5. Running has no boundaries or limits. Anyone can literally run anytime and anywhere, no matter what your fitness level. Even your best (four-legged) friends can run with you. And it’s also worth noting that your dog will experience the same runner’s high that you do.

6. Running makes you more goal-oriented. Most runners strive to beat their personal best in time and endurance each time, which takes dedication and consistency. This attitude can spill over into other areas of your life, such as career and personal relationships.

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