We all know that running makes us feel good, both physically and mentally. Intuitively, it’s no big leap to understand that it’s good for our health. A closer look reveals just how extensive your favorite sport’s benefits are.
The basics. Running burns calories as it strengthens and tones muscles. As a weight bearing exercise, it can help prevent bone loss. That’s just the tip of the benefits iceberg.
Heart-healthy. Ever notice how many physicians are runners? That’s because they know running is a superb sport for building a strong heart, while reducing risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Numerous studies have shown that aerobic exercise increases high-density lipoproteins (HDL), the “good” cholesterol, and can help lower blood pressure. One well-known recent study showed that even running slowly only five to 10 minutes a day significantly reduced heart disease.
Weight management. Take a brief stroll down the diet section of any bookstore, and you’ll soon realize that keeping one’s weight down is a national obsession. And while a healthy diet remains the key factor in staying slim, running can work together with your food intake to keep your weight down. Studies have shown that regular running helps you maintain your weight goals.
Sleep well. Sleep is a major contributor to robust health. Adequate, high-quality sleep is the foundation for everything from heart health, to mental acuity, to athletic performance. Running has been shown to shorten the time it takes to fall asleep and lengthen the time you stay asleep. Exercise scientists believe that it helps realign your internal clock.
Immune system booster. Never has a strong immune system been on peoples’ minds more than now, as we struggle to put the COVID-19 pandemic behind us. The good news is that exercise—and running in particular—improves your overall immunity. Again, recent studies have demonstrated that regular aerobic exercise played a role in boosting your immune system. One way this happens is that intense exercise such as running suppresses stress hormones and even helps mobilize “natural killer cells”— white blood cells that can help minimize the spread of infections. And notably, aerobic exercise helps ward off upper respiratory tract infections.
Mental health. While psychotherapy and antidepressants are the “go-to” approach for treating depression, it is now widely accepted that exercise like running can have a profoundly positive effect on your mental health, not only in treating depression, but anxiety as well. It’s believed that the production of neurotransmitters (like endorphins) is responsible for the positive results. That, and the fact running outside in the sun promotes vitamin D, which plays a critical role in mood regulation.
So yeah, as we head into the new year, keep it up! You’ll be glad you did.
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