Health Benefits of Running
Why does anyone start running in the first place? The reasons range from stress relief to fitness right down to the most common one of weight management. Whatever your reason is, chances are you will be pleasantly surprised with some unexpected benefits along the way. There is also a good chance that the reason or reasons you started running may differ from the reasons that keep you going out for more, day after day, week after week.
I started running for overall fitness and to keep up with my young children. As an older mom, or rather a "starting over, second time around mom", (whatever you want to call it) I feared falling in to the "mommy's too old" or "mommy's too tired" trap and not playing with my kids. Having gone that route I would have missed out on so much and some of my happiest moments are running with my three little girls.
The benefits of running are more than I can cover here, but they primarily fall into these categories: Physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual. I'm sure I have left out some, but I will start with these.
With the physical benefits, some are pretty obvious, ie; weight loss, muscle tone, but some of the less obvious ones that you may not know of are: improved heart and lung function, improved circulation, lower blood pressure, lower resting pulse (meaning your heart is actually more efficient at pumping blood), lower cholesterol and triglycerides, increased HDL or good cholesterol, lower blood sugar or less risk of diabetes, increased bone density, decreased risk of impotence in men due to better circulation and vascular health (Runners World Feb 2011), better sleep and reduced insomnia, and the list goes on.
The mental benefits include improved mental capacity due to better circulation to the brain, better focus (and if you struggle with ADD like me, this is a big plus), may even increase IQ, however this has not been proven or tested. The mental stress relief must not be left out as stress in and of itself can be dangerous for your body.
Emotion benefits of running include decrease depression and a lift in overall feelings of well being. Running helps balance hormones and can help reduce symptoms of pms or menopause in women. Other perks, ( not sure if these fall under emotional) are reduced cravings for nicotine, alcohol or other addictions.
Socially, if you run with a friend or group of friends it can be a great way to meet people and form some life lasting friendships. Some of my best friends are runners and I have found that almost no subject is off limits between friends on a run. Conversations tend to come up that would feel misplaced over coffee or in other settings.
And last but certainly not least is the spiritual benefits of running. Although this is from personal experience, I am sure I am not the only one that prays, meditates or hums along with hyms on a long run. Running is a time when I can be alone with God and is some of my best devotional time.
These are just some of the many benefits of running, but I am sure there are much more that could be added to this. I would like to some this up by asking my fellow runners out there, "Why did you start running? and what keeps you at it?"
What motivated you to start running in the first place?
To read more about this subject please see:
- Why Running is Good for Your Body From Runner\'s World
More scientific proof that running keeps you healthy.