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Running is the most common, natural movement after walking, and has been so since perhaps humans began moving on two feet. Besides its youthful significance, the benefits of running or jogging is beyond any miracle in terms of health benefits. It reduces the risk of heart disease, maintains cardiovascular health as well as prevents many other physical ailments. According to many experts, exercising is a natural medicine to humankind, and running is the most basic form of exercise.

You can run to lose fat, train hard a healthier lifestyle or excel at the sport you are good at. Running increases mortality rates, with studies confirming that runners live a longer life than those who do not. While many think running is only an activity to be engaged in to stay in shape, it has several health benefits as well.

Running or jogging is highly recommended to increase the functioning of your heart and lungs. This activity allows your heart to pump at a higher rate and fills your lungs with more oxygen. Even a short run can positively affect your physical health, besides being advantageous to your mental health. 

An active person is naturally healthier than one leading a sedentary life in all aspects. Besides all its health benefits, running is an activity that can free up the mind as well as the tense muscles you have been feeling from tiring days at work.

  1. Benefits of running
  2. Running, jogging and other alternatives
  3. Side effects of running
  4. Tips for running
  5. Precaution and mistakes while running and jogging
  6. Running surfaces
  7. How much running is good for you
  8. Don’t make these mistakes before running

Running and jogging has many health benefits, which helps our body prevent various illnesses. It is a great exercise to train the entire body. While going to a gym, swim or a bicycle ride involves a certain cost to buy additional equipment or access to facilities, running is the most natural, no-cost form of fitness one can enjoy and excel at.

  1. Running is good for your heart
  2. Running/jogging promotes weight loss
  3. Way to healthier lungs
  4. Increases the level of good cholesterol
  5. Running helps get rid of stress
  6. Running reduces depression
  7. Running reduces risk of cancer
  8. Reduces the risk of diabetes

Running is good for your heart

Running is the best way to prevent cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack, heart failure or blood clots in the arteries. A study published in the journal Clinics in Sports Medicine suggests that regular running allows your heart to function better in normal situations. Runners' bodies consume more oxygen but maintain a slow resting pulse rate, lower than those who don't run. Hence, running makes the heart pump with more accuracy and more efficiently. The study indicates that people who run regularly have more efficient hearts than sedentary people.

Running/jogging promotes weight loss

Running or jogging is great to lose some extra pounds from your belly. It is the simplest yet effective way to burn calories. You almost burn 100 calories per mile while running. Although if you want to lose a lot of fat in less time, you must add different variations to your running programme. You can include the following steps to do so:

  • Run at your own pace for the first two days.
  • Include interval running or interval training over the next two days.
  • Practice a longer run with intervals, before weekends.
  • Return to your usual running speed and routine for another two days.
  • You can mix up your training regime with sprints, hill runs or on an inclined surface, or even a short run on a declined surface.

To avoid injuries, warm-up your arms and legs and do not run on hard surfaces to begin with, as it can cause shin splints and other running injuries.

Way to healthier lungs

Our lungs get filled with oxygen when we run faster, making them work more efficiently. According to a study published in the journal Breathe, running needs more energy from the body which is fulfilled by the lungs and the heart. The lungs generate energy by bringing more oxygen into the body and releasing carbon dioxide.

Sedentary people create 12 litres of air, whereas runners can go up to 100 litres of air while running; that is 15 times more than a resting person. In this process, oxygen is injected into the muscles at a higher rate to keep the runner moving. Running implements long-term benefits: you may be out of breath after a run, but it increases the strength and function of the lungs by making them more efficient in reserving oxygen.

Increases the level of good cholesterol

There have been many studies that have shown the positive effects of running on cholesterol levels. When we run, our body burns fat which includes cholesterol as well. Cholesterol is a waxy substance present in our blood. There are two types of cholesterol LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and HDL (high-density lipoprotein). HDL is the good cholesterol that minimises the risk of heart disease.

According to a journal of the American Heart Association (AHA), running increases good cholesterol levels, which plays an important role in weight loss. In another study by Lipids, 42% of males and 40% of females who were physically active had a lower risk of high cholesterol levels.

Running helps get rid of stress

Stress levels are high among Indians in general. A wellbeing survey conducted in 2019 showed that an eye-popping 82% of the Indian population was suffering from stress. Stress can lead to mental and physical problems, including eating disorders, insomnia, personality disorders, depression and anxiety. A study by Brigham Young University students found strong evidence that prove that running can help reduce chronic stress by protecting the learning and memory mechanism of the brain.

Running reduces depression

Enough evidence has been produced to suggest running can have positive effects in countering depression. Within a few moments of running, the brain releases hormones which affect our mood in a positive manner. Physical exercise like running can effectively treat symptoms of depression without any side effects.

The restless energy that remains contained in moments of depression can be positively expended during a run. Studies have often indicated that running helps in enlarging a person's hippocampus and creates stimulation in the brain's frontal cortex, both of which are affected during depression. It's other positives include the person's direct exposure to sunlight which also has a positive effect in a person's brain and thoughts.

Running reduces risk of cancer

There have been many studies that recommend running for people who have a higher risk of cancer. Besides quitting smoking and consumption of tobacco, running is the most effective modification that can be added to your lifestyle to prevent cancer. Running can prevent most of cancers including:

Reduces the risk of diabetes

Currently, 5% of the Indian population is suffering from diabetes, and is increasing every year in India. By 2040, there will be 123 million diabetic patients, according to a report by the International Diabetes Federation.

In diabetes, blood sugar levels increase due to lack of insulin hormones in the body. Running increases the level of insulin in the entire body. Running at a normal pace for 20 to 30 minutes consumes the entire body’s glucose for recovery.

Both running as well as jogging are aerobic workouts which help our body reduce blood sugar. Running is more intense and usually performed at a higher pace than jogging (the essential difference between the two), burning more energy, while the heart, lungs and muscles work more aggressively while running. Running also consumes energy more quickly. However, it depends on your body and muscles, and how they react to the activities.

Running has several styles and variations, and can be tried by anyone depending on which style they are most naturally suited to:

  • Base run: A short to moderate length run at the runner's natural pace.
  • Long run: A run longer than base run, at the same speed, but leaves you exhausted at the end of it.
  • Interval run: Mixing up your running routine by running at a high pace at first and then slowing down for the next 'interval', and so on.
  • Sprints: Running at your fastest over short distances, like over 100 metres.
  • Tempo run: Running for a long period of time at the highest pace you can run at. Beginners can usually try it with a 10-20 minute run at the highest clip they can maintain over that duration.

If for any reason running isn't accessible to you or a circumstance that stops you from running, you can also choose low-impact exercises like cycling, swimming or the cross-trainer in the gym.

It is recommended that people with existing heart conditions shouldn’t start running before consulting their doctor. Every form of exercise has its own benefits, but performing them in beyond the limits your body can allow can also have adverse effects.

Running too much can cause muscle spasms, muscle strains or even pain in multiple muscle groups. You may also be asked to avoid running if you were ever diagnosed with arthritis, gout, high blood pressure or any joint injury. Running can also cause the following specific problems:

Running can strengthen your leg muscles but can also drain other muscle groups. While running you may see good results in your lower body strength but your upper body becomes weak after every intense session. It is always recommended to include strength training in your fitness regimen to maintain the body's muscle mass.

Running can be beneficial or detrimental at the same time. To get the best results from running, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Invest in a good pair of running shoes.
  • Increase your weekly target by 5 to 10 percent of your previous run.
  • Instead of targeting more time, go for distance-based training.
  • Give your muscles adequate amount of rest.
  • To make it a habit join a weekly marathon or a running group.
  • Do not run in populated and polluted places as it can cause injuries or respiratory problems.
  • To keep a track of your progression, wear a sports gadget or else you can use a notebook by yourself after a run.
  • Running can weaken your upper body; mix up your routine with other workouts.
  • Wear headphones to keep yourself engaged while running in a park, but avoid it if running in a street with traffic.
  • If you are a professional trainer or a gym enthusiast you can use running as your warm-up workout.
  • In the beginning, set smaller goals and increase gradually.
  1. Importance of stretching after a run
  2. Diet benefits while running

Importance of stretching after a run

It is always recommended to stretch after a run instead of before. It enhances movement and improves your muscle strength. Rather than this below are some amazing benefits of stretching after a run:

  • Improves blood circulation of the entire body
  • Enhances body posture
  • By relieving muscle tension, it helps in reducing mental and physical stress
  • Great at avoiding injuries like back pain

Diet benefits while running

When you run you burn more calories than you were previously, which means your body needs more carbohydrates and protein to fulfil the requirement. Overall, your body requires 25% of carbs, 15% of protein and 25% of fat from your diet. You can add the following healthy fuel to your diet:

  • Almonds
  • Bananas
  • Eggs
  • High-protein cereals
  • Chicken breast
  • Green veggies

Diet enhances the results of running by promoting muscle recovery. It is advised to have a healthy diet to go along with exercise programmes.

People usually think running is an easy workout and can be done without any precautions, but generally overconfidence can increase the risk of injuries. Before hitting a running session, make sure to take the following precautions to avoid mistakes and injury:

  • Running itself may be a warm-up, but if you are planning to hit an intense run, warm-up your body with jumping jacks, squats, high knees, rope jumping or any other low-intensity exercise to get the blood flowing through your legs.
  • As a beginner, do not push yourself too much as it can cause muscle strain, cramps, spasm or soreness. Perform a short run for a period of time and increase your intensity gradually.
  • Avoid stretching before running: stretching cold muscles increase the risk of muscle strains.
  • Don’t put speed as a factor to achieve your goal. Instead, try to cover more distance or time.
  • If you are planning to run in the summer, use strong sunscreen lotions (over SPF 15 in value) for the exposed parts of the body.
  • Avoid running near roads, on the hottest days of summer or at busy places.
  • Massage your legs and the rest of the body after every two to three weeks to prevent the muscles from tightening up.
  • Wear clothing made of light fabric and always carry a water bottle.
  • Running on a soft platform reduces the risk of injuries like shin splints, ankle injury and knee pain.
  • If you see any sign of pain, spasm, muscle strain, body aching, skin itching, or muscle soreness, take a break for a few days.

The surface you run on is as important as the shoes you wear to avoid injury. Many runners prefer running on softer surfaces like grass, sand, trail or a synthetic athletic track. Others may consider harder surfaces such as the road, concrete, or even a treadmill. Choosing a surface depends on your running goal:

Road
If you are going to perform a fast run opt for emptier roads. Asphalt is a hard surface but can be safe because of its even structure, and is the commonly used surface for marathons. Avoid this if you have knee or joint pain as the surface puts more stress on the knees.

Track
Performing a slow run reduces the risk of injury. Roads are full of traffic and sometimes it’s hard to find an empty stretch. Concrete (cement) surfaces, commonly found around neighbourhood parks, are harder than roads but planning to run at a slow pace can be a great alternative with low injury rates.

Grass
For fast and slow running, grass is the best for its soft, even surface. Running on grass takes the strain off your legs and builds more strength. You can switch to a harder surface gradually to train intensely. On grass, you can run as fast as you can without worrying about injuries. However, if the surface is uneven it can cause falls and injuries. Try to find a flat grass surface.

Red sand track
Some parks in the neighbourhoods opt for tracks made out of red sand. Running on the earth surface reduces injury and maintains an even surface throughout.

Treadmill
Running or jogging on a treadmill is a great alternative for everyone. You can train fast, slow, elevated, declined or even with weights strapped to your ankles. Running on a treadmill allows you to train in bad weather as well. Adjusting pace provides your legs a better run while also monitoring the heart rate and calories burned.

It is better to opt for softer surfaces or slower runs on a treadmill in the beginning and move up as your strength and endurance levels grow.

An adequate amount of running can work better than pills prescribed by a doctor. According to a study published in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, running 5-10 minutes at a slow pace can also benefit you by decreasing the risk of death from all kinds of cardiovascular disease. Runners are more likely to live three years longer than sedentary people on an average, with a lower risk of heart attack and stroke. 

Another study by the American Journal of Epidemiology says jogging for 30 minutes a day decreases the risk of sudden death. So, to benefit greatly from running, you do not need to run for hours. Even 10-30 minutes of running at a moderate pace is enough to lead a much healthier life.

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References

  1. Greist JH et al. Running as treatment for depression. Comprehensive Psychiatry. 1979 Jan-Feb;20(1):41-54.
  2. Couillard, C et al. Effects of Endurance Exercise Training on Plasma HDL Cholesterol Levels Depend on Levels of Triglycerides. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 2001 Jul; 21:1226–1232.
  3. Factsheet. Your lungs and exercise. Breathe (Sheff). 2016 Mar; 12(1): 97–100.
  4. Cantwell JD. Cardiovascular aspects of running. Clinics in Sports Medicine. 1985 Oct;4(4):627-40.
  5. Friedenreich, CM, Orenstein, MR. Physical Activity and Cancer Prevention: Etiologic Evidence and Biological Mechanisms. Journal of Nutrition. 2002 Nov; 132(11): 3456–3464.
  6. Schnohr, P et al. Longevity in Male and Female Joggers: The Copenhagen City Heart Study. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2013 Apr; 177(7):683–689.
  7. Lee, D et al. Running as a Key Lifestyle Medicine for Longevity. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases. 2017 Jul-Aug; 60(1):45-55.
  8. Lee, D et al. Leisure-Time Running Reduces All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality Risk. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014 Aug 5; 64(5): 472–481.
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