I started running a few years ago at the grand old age of 45, proving, I hope, that it’s never too late to start! I had tried running several times over the years but never took to it, I think now , looking back, that I tried to go too fast too soon. Once I’d made the decision to try and take it easy, everything just fell into place.
I started by running for a minute (or until I wanted to stop) and then walking to recover. I gradually built it up and within 2 weeks I could run for 20 minutes non stop. Since then I have built up my running and last May completed my first 10 km race. However, I have now decided that shorter distances suit me better so I stick to 5 km. I still run the odd longer distance when I feel like it but take it really slowly.
And now I love running! When I was out this morning I started thinking about what it is that I love about it – it gets me out into the great outdoors whatever the weather, it’s free and totally portable when I travel, just a pair of trainers to pack. When I got home I did a bit of research and came up with the following 10 benefits of running.
1. One of the most well known benefits of running is weight loss. It burns more calories per minute, than any other form of cardiovascular exercise. Research has proven the fact that running burns an average of 100 calories per mile. The metabolic rate of the body is increased and stays increased long after the exercise has stopped.
2. The cardiovascular benefits of running are huge, reducing the risk of heart attacks by strengthening the heart, lowering blood pressure and maintaining the elasticity of arteries. Every time you move your legs, the blood is pumped back to the heart which in turn beats faster to pump more blood around the body.
3. Regular running raises HDL (good) cholesterol, reduces the risk of blood clots and encourages use of the 50% of your lungs that usually go unused.
4. The endorphins released into the brain when running can reduce stress and make you feel good. Running has even been prescribed by doctors to treat depression and addiction.
5. The immune sytem is boosted by running. It creates a higher concentration of lymphocytes in the blood which help the body to fight infection. I am sure this is true as I was forced to stop running when I went skiing at Christmas and when I got back I developed a really bad cold. I’m convinced that keeping the white blood cells moving around the body during running can actually help keep infections at bay. The skiing wasn’t aerobic enough exercise to keep the effect going while I was away.
6. Running helps the body to excrete toxins efficiently. During hard aerobic exercise all the organs are stimulated by increased blood flow including the lungs, kidneys and skin. In addition the sweat produced by the body carries waste products out via the skin.
7. Weight bearing exercise such as running is vital in the prevention of osteoporosis, it helps the body to produce stronger bones and the increased blood flow provides the tools for this. Running has also been shown to increase the production of human growth hormone, keeping you looking younger!
8. Running can help protect the liver, a study found aerobic exercise stimulated the liver, increasing its effectiveness, increasing insulin sensitivity, improving fat metabolism and reducing damage by oxidation.
9. The body is not the only thing to benefit, running improves your mind too. The mind starts working fast when a person runs. While the body gets strength, the mind becomes more focused and determined. Running can provide an ideal time for thinking and the increased blood flow leads to better connections, improved memory and sharper concentration.
10. An American study found that female runners produce a less potent form of oestrogen than their sedentary counterparts. As a result, the women who ran regularly cut their risks of developing breast and uterine cancer by half, and cut their risk of diabetes by two thirds.
So that’s 10 of the best reasons I can find to get your running shoes on!
Can you think of any more?