If you are already a runner, then you may not need to read this article, as you probably already know about these benefits. Running is not just an activity or exercise—it is a way of life. It makes you feel better, smarter and happier. Running also makes you healthier and even enables you to live longer. However, if you have not yet started to run, then those benefits of running listed below will surely get you thinking about getting those running shoes out of your closet and on the open road!
1. Better mental performance
Scientists have discovered that the same process which helps fuel the body also improves memory and learning abilities. Researchers have confirmed that endurance runners are also likely to have better memories. It is therefore not a surprise that many great thinkers have also been keen sportsmen. Alan Turing, famous cryptographer responsible for decoding the Enigma code, was able to run a marathon in just 2 hours 46 minutes. At that time he nearly qualified in the 1948 Olympics to represent Britain.
2. Better mood
Running increases the brain’s serotonin levels, which make you more relaxed and calm. This is probably why so many people who work in highly stressful positions (e.g., consultants, investment bankers, etc.) are also keen runners.
Runners have talking about a special condition called a “runner’s high,” which results in the sense of achievement people get after they complete a job well or run the distance they set as a goal. According to a 2012 study published in The Journal of Experimental Biology, it is thought that a high-intensity activity can lead to an increase in endocannabinoids—the brain chemicals that signal pleasure.
3. Better sleep
A study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that for people who regularly run in the mornings, “subjective sleep quality, mood, and concentration during the day improved, whereas sleepiness during the day decreased.” According to the conclusion of the study, “thirty minutes of running in the morning during weekdays for 3 consecutive weeks impacted positively on sleep and psychological functioning in healthy adolescents compared with control subjects.”
4. Reduces cardiovascular disease
Even short runs for 5 minutes can cut your risk of cardiovascular disease by almost half. According to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, people who run regularly have a 30 percent lower risk of death from all causes, and an impressive 45 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
According to the Harvard Medical School, although running can trim away some of the existing risk of cardiovascular disease, it doesn’t entirely eliminate it. The combined effects of lifestyle, diet, and family history still contribute to your lifetime risk.
5. Reduced blood pressure
No matter their blood pressure level, all people can benefit from regular physical activity, including running. Running, being a very intense, physical activity, can cause blood pressure levels to spike temporarily. However, the blood pressure spikes created by running should not be of concern. According to the American Heart Association, walking briskly can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes as much as running:
- Running significantly reduced the risk for first-time hypertension by 4.2 percent, while walking reduced the risk by 7.2 percent.
- Running reduced first-time high cholesterol by 4.3 percent; walking reduced it by 7 percent.
- Running reduced first-time diabetes by 12.1 percent compared to 12.3 percent for walking.
- Running reduced coronary heart disease by 4.5 percent compared to 9.3 percent for walking.
6. Running slows the aging clock
A study from the Stanford University School of Medicine, which tracked over 500 older runners for more than 20 years, has found that “elderly runners have fewer disabilities, a longer span of active life, and are half as likely as aging nonrunners to die early deaths”.
Furthermore, both groups (running and non-running people) in the study became more disabled after 21 years of aging. However, for runners, the initial disability was 16 years later than for non-runners. The study confirmed that not only did running delay the onset of disability, but the gap between runners’ and non-runners’ abilities became bigger with time.
7. Running increases your lifespan
An extensive study conducted by PLOS Medicine showed that when different types of people started to meet the minimum of amount of physical activity of at least 30 minutes, five times per week, they lived longer. Individuals who were smokers added 4.1 years to their lifespan; nonsmokers added three years. Even those who were still smoking gained 2.6 more years to live. Cancer survivors added 5.3 years to their lives. People with heart disease gained 4.3 years.
Surely these additional years of life make it worth considering starting regular physical activity if you haven’t already done so!