Health Benefits of Running

Running is a popular form of exercise for a reason. It doesn’t need much equipment, and you can do it just about anywhere or anytime it is convenient for you. Plus, experts say it improves heart health.

How Running Improves Your Health

Better cardio health. Running, or jogging, is one of the best cardio exercises you can do. Running for at least 10 minutes a day can significantly lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Runners lower their chances of dying from heart disease by half.

It also lowers your resting heart rate, the number of times your heart beats per minute when you’re at rest. This is an important indicator of your overall health and fitness. The lower the rate, the more efficient your heartbeat.

Better sleep. Quality sleep is essential for your health. Your body repairs itself when you're asleep, which is why you wake up feeling refreshed. But try to avoid running too late in the day. This can interfere with how well you sleep at night. Aerobic exercise triggers a release of endorphins, chemicals that help relieve pain or stress. These activate the brain and might keep you awake.

Improved knee and back health. A study of 675 marathon runners found that they had a lower arthritis rate than other people. The runners’ knees and backs were both positively affected. The more you run, the lower your odds of back problems as you age.

Improved memory. If you find that you have problems with your memory, get running. It affects your brain in the short and long term. Aerobic exercise gets your heart rate up and makes you sweat. This can boost the size of your hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning.

Fewer colds. If you start to feel a little off, running for 30 minutes can trigger your immune system to help you feel better. When you do aerobic exercises like running at least 5 days a week, you lower your odds of upper tract respiratory infections by 43%.

Better mood and energy. Many people run because they want to feel better. The exercise helps boost your mood, concentration, and overall quality of life. Runner's high is real. 

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Setting Running Goals for Success

Having a running goal in mind will help you stay committed. Be sure to set realistic, specific goals that you can measure. If a marathon seems like too much, try a 5K road race. Some tips to help you succeed:

  • Make a plan, and stay consistent.
  • Create a routine you can stick to.
  • Start with a mix of running and walking.
  • Combine your running program with other forms of exercise for variety.
  • Run with a friend, or join a local running club.

Talk with your doctor before making a running plan, especially if you have a medical condition or have not exercised in a long time. Your doctor will help you come up with a running program that won't overstrain your body or mind. 

Tips for Healthy Running

For the best results with your running program:

  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet.
  • Don’t run right after eating.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your run. 
  • Don’t turn your music up too loud. Stay alert and aware of what’s around you.
  • Wear reflective clothes if running early in the morning or late in the evening.
  • Tell someone where you plan to run and when you expect to be back.
  • Avoid isolated and dangerous areas.
  • Take regular breaks to let your body rest.
  • If you get an injury while running, stop and get medical care right away.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Jabeen Begum on June 22, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

Better Health Channel: “Running and jogging - preventing injury.”

British Journal of Sports Medicine: “Aerobic exercise increases hippocampal volume in older women with probable mild cognitive impairment: a 6-month randomised controlled trial,” “Upper respiratory tract infection is reduced in physically fit and active adults.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Exercising for Better Sleep.”

Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery: “Low Prevalence of Hip and Knee Arthritis in Active Marathon Runners.”

Journal of the American College of Cardiology: “Leisure-Time Running Reduces All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality Risk.”

Mayo Clinic: “Mayo Clinic Q and A: Running for better health.”

PLOS ONE: “Long-term running in middle-aged men and intervertebral disc health, a cross-sectional pilot study.”

Road Runners Club of America: “Getting started.”

© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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