Okay, I confess. I have a vested interest in this question, “Is running good for you?” It’s been a big part of my life since I first started at the age of 15.
I can still remember those first few runs. Going out at night or running in the local woods so no-one saw my pathetic efforts. That I had to stop gasping for breath and walk so frequently… at times it felt running would never get any easier.
If you’d told me a few years later I’d be completing ultra marathons, that running could even feel effortless, I would never have believed you. Good or bad, I was just trying to get fit and lose a little weight…
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Are We Born To Run?
Chris McDougall’s Born To Run book exploded on to the running scene in 2009. Telling the tale of the Tarahumara Indians who run down prey barefoot to survive, ultra runners couldn’t get enough of the story.
Suddenly runners weren’t just lycra clad freaks but people following their natural instincts. A whole new movement of people running barefoot appeared overnight – not often with the best of outcomes with our soft western feet and dirty city streets.
The idea we’re natural runners is convincing. Young children love to run and will happily run around playing all day long. Sitting all day at school, peer pressure, electronic gadgets… all conspire to produce nations of non-runners.
Running Improves Moods
Take my word for it or try it out for yourself. No matter how hard you find your run, you’re guaranteed to come back feeling better about yourself.
It’s even been proved to help with major depressive disorders by pumping out mood enhancing endorphins and endocannabinoids. The legendary runner’s high is real.
Does Running Damage Your Knees?
Grannies love to tell you “running will damage your knees” but is this true or is it just a myth?
That doesn’t mean you’ll be immune from knee pain. Runner’s knee, patellar tendinitis or iliotibial band syndrome are common overuse injuries.
Just like any other sport it’s important to treat your body with respect: build your running miles slowly and avoid muscle imbalance. Regular yoga is a great way to stay injury free.
It Can Help You Lose Weight
Running is a terrific calorie burner. Possibly the best. Each mile you run burns around 100 calories. Since losing weight comes down to eating less and exercising more, it can be the best way to achieve your weight loss goals.
The only proviso is running can boost your appetite. I find this happens when you up your mileage but as your body adjusts your appetite returns to normal. If you find your runs are just making you hungry and you’re not losing weight, try completing shorter, faster distances. Fast running burns more calories per mile and can even suppress your appetite.
Endurance Runners Have Bigger Hearts
No this doesn’t mean they’re more likely to remember Valentine’s Day! Endurance runners can have hearts that are 50% bigger than normal. They can also have wider arteries and slower resting heart rates. Is this all sounds good but it’s also possible excessive running thickens the heart tissue, causing fibrosis or scarring.
So what is excessive and is it really a risk? Medical science fully supports moderate exercise. Running just 5 to 10 minutes a day can make a big improvement to your health, reducing your risk of heart disease. It’s the effect of high volume running that’s inconclusive. What about those runner’s clocking up ultra marathons and pushing through 40+ mile weeks? At the moment there are no clear answers.
That doesn’t mean it’s bad for you. Running persistently give’s you good cardio and it’s encouraged by your doctor, you just need to be aware of the potential risk of over-doing it. It’s always okay to slow down or walk on those steep hills. Just listen to your body.
Running Helps You Sleep Better
Trust me on this one. Running regularly means better zzzs. Fresh air and exercise are always good for helping you drop off to sleep.
Just don’t try heading out late at night. I find hard runs after 7pm can leave you tossing and turning. You need time after your run to unwind.
It’s A Form Of Meditation
If you find it hard to clear your head when sitting on your yoga mat, heading out for a run may be the answer. It can provide a similar benefit to meditation.
Emptying your head of thoughts on a run is a good way to de-stress and improves concentration levels. You can solve so many of life’s problems just by going for a run!
There’s A Great Community
No matter where I’ve been in the world, runners are always welcoming. There are clubs and groups just about everywhere making it easy to connect with other runners. Some of my best friendships started on a run.
You’ll Benefit From A Great Body
Running will give you strong legs, an envious butt and terrific abs. Find out how running changes your body. It’s mainly good!
I have no regrets about becoming a runner. At times I’ve pushed myself to the limits. You learn a lot about yourself when you’re halfway through a 50 mile endurance run. I like to think running is good for you and as long as you’re not over-training the science backs this up. I’d love to hear your views in the comments below!
Running is good for your heart, strengthens your joints and improves your moods. It can also help you lose or maintain your weight. Medical science is unanimous in agreeing that regular moderate running is good for you. There are some concerns excessive endurance running may cause heart problems.
Running, just like all sports, can lead to muscle imbalances. This can be corrected by strength training in the gym or yoga. If left unchecked, these muscle imbalances can lead to injuries such as runner’s knee. It’s an excellent form of exercise for good overall health but there’s a slight unproven concern that running 40+ miles a week may cause heart problems in some runners.
Running just 5 – 10 minutes a day can reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your overall health. Running reduces stress, improves moods and helps you lose weight.