5 Benefits to Running
By Contributor Tracy Fu, Crossfit Athlete
The first Wednesday of June is the day when people from around the world will lace up to go for a run in honor of Global Running Day. What started in 2009 in the U.S. has grown to be a global event with the goal of promoting the physical and mental benefits of running.
Although I ran short track as an adolescent, I never enjoyed running any distance over 200m. Since endurance is very important to my overall competitiveness in the sport I do now, I made a commitment to become a better runner while gyms were on Covid lockdown. I didn’t aspire to run a marathon, but I wanted to be able to run a few Km without it feeling like a punishment.
I started with single 400m laps at a time, then to 3 laps, and then to 5. Eventually I increased my distances until I was finally able to run 5km. This was a huge accomplishment for me and I can kind of appreciate now why people love to run. Not only are there major physical benefits, but it is accessible and easy to do – no excuses fly here.
So, I will participate in National Running Day this year and you should too. If being a part of a global movement isn’t reason enough to entice you to run, here are five benefits of running:
5 Benefits Of Running:
1 – Improved Longevity
A 2018 meta-analysis of research on running and longevity found that runners have a 27% lower rate of all-cause mortality, 30% lower rate of cardiovascular mortality and 23% lower rate of cancer mortality when compared to non-runners.
A 2017 medical study concluded that “in general, runners have a 25%-40% reduced risk of premature mortality and live approximately 3 years longer than non-runners.”
In 2016, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a report that examined the correlation between exercise habits and cancer incidence in 1.44 million American and European adults and concluded that high-fitness exercisers, like runners, had a lower risk for developing 26 different kinds of cancer than low and non-exercisers.
2 – Better Sleep
We’ve all heard that sleep plays a major role in our overall health and quality of life. But to what extent? Studies show that sleep deprivation leads to emotional distress, mood disorders, hypertension, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, weight-related issues, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, and colorectal cancer. All-cause mortality is also increased in men with sleep disturbances.
Moderate aerobic exercise increases the amount of “deep sleep” we get – the state in which the brain and body have a chance to rejuvenate. Research shows that sufficient sleep is essential for optimum health—some processes that occur during sleep include restoration of nervous, immune, skeletal, and muscular systems. Virtually all bodily systems are impacted by poor or inadequate sleep and chronic sleep disturbance predisposes an individual to cardiovascular disease, metabolic dysfunction, psychiatric disorders and early mortality.
Contrary to popular beliefs about exercising before bed, a meta-analysis published in Sports Medicine suggested that moderate exercise even when performed close to bed time, i.e. an evening run, has been shown to help you fall asleep and give you a deeper sleep.
3- Better Knee Function
A 2018 study published in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery compared 675 marathon runners with non-active participants. It found that “the arthritis rate of active marathoners was below that of the general U.S. population.” When researchers looked at the knees of runners who had just completed a multi-day, 2700-mile run across Europe, they found that the intensive running did not have a negative effect on the knee joint.
Most of us aren’t seasoned marathon runners, so to reference this in a way that might be more relatable: a study of 44 first-time marathon runners observed that “the knees of novice runners achieved sustained improvement, for at least 6 months post-marathon, in the condition of their bone marrow and articular cartilage.”
4 – Reduced cognitive decline and potential prevention of Alzheimer’s
Physical activity can promote cardiovascular health, improve blood flow to the brain, reduce inflammation and lower levels of stress hormones. All these factors can benefit cognition – the processes that include thinking, knowing, remembering, judging, and problem-solving.
New evidence is continually being published about the effects of exercise on brain health. Not only can it improve our current cognitive function, but it may aid in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. An article published in 2019 by New Scientist explains evidence of a link between Irisin, a hormone released during exercise, and Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists found that people with Alzheimer’s had lower levels of the hormone compared with healthy individuals.
Another study showed that cardiorespiratory exercise, like running, improves total brain volume, including gray matter – lower volume of grey matter is associated with cognitive decline and aging. A higher presence of grey matter has been associated with increased learning capabilities and improved memory, along with an increased sense of self-awareness.
5- Improved mental health benefits and reduced depression
There is overwhelming evidence of the positive effects of fitness on mental health and depression. Not only does running have benefits to your physical health, but it can increase your energy and improve your mood.
A 2016 meta-analysis of exercise and depression reached these conclusions, among other positive outcomes: 1) Exercise is “an effective treatment” for depression; 2) Exercise is as effective as psychotherapy and prescription meds; and 3) Exercise “may serve as an alternative” to costly and often-hard-to-find/schedule medical treatments.
About the Author
Being active has always been an important part of Tracy’s life. She was named “Athlete of the Year” in high school and after suffering a few injuries she shifted her focus to weight training in the gym. In her early 20s she became inspired by the sport of bodybuilding and started on her journey towards strength and muscle building under the guidance of a competitive bodybuilder. In 2018, Tracy started Crossfit and has been committed to her progress and improvement in that sport. She is a huge proponent of lifting heavy and building muscle for physical wellness, especially for women. Tracy has worked in commercial real estate for over 15 years and for three years of that also ran a small business. She continues to balance her work and training schedules while allocating time to other personal development. Follow her on Instagram @tofu_inyyc
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