Running is the king of cardio.
Everyone knows that it's a great way to get into shape and contributes to keeping the body and mind healthy.
But if you haven't run for a while, getting back into the groove can be brutal. The first raw experience will be of heavy breathing and muscle aching.
However, you start to acclimatise, running can return to it's rightful place as blissful, meditative, and providing a sense of freedom.
To get you back in the mindset, here are four excitingly good health benefits of going for a run and getting the heart beating...
It's widely known that running, at any pace, has a positive impact on general mood. However, recent studies suggest that the positive effects of running are much greater than previously thought.
A study in the American College of Sports Medicine journal suggests that spending 30 minutes on a treadmill is sufficient to lift the mood of someone suffering from major depressive disorders.
The biological explanation is that the pituitary gland in the brain releases more endorphins and endocannabinoids (‘natural painkillers’) which are mood lifters, and less immune system chemicals that can make feeling low even worse.
Chemically, the endocannabinoids produced during a run aren't all that different from the mood-altering chemical found in marijuana, THC.
Running has also been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. Part of this is due to improving sleep quality and duration.
Running increases time spent in deep sleep which is the most physically restorative sleep phase, helping to boost immune function, support cardiac health, and control stress and anxiety.
Strengthening of Joints
Contrary to what many people think, running may improve the health of our joints.
Historically, the assumption has been that the intense and frequent pressure that running places on the joints can cause wear and tear, and this may ultimately lead to knee osteoarthritis. Indeed, knee pain is often a sign of over-training and can sideline a runner.
However, we know that running strengthens bones and keeps the leg muscles strong.
We also know that when we are younger, the body has a strong ability to repair and regenerate tissue which is often repairs itself stronger than it was beforehand.
This could mean that cartilage, which acts as the shock absorber in our joints, becomes more durable the greater we run when we are younger.
Resistance to Aging
In 2018, a study in the European Heart Journal showed that young participants who ran through High Intensity Interval Training (‘HIIT’) or endurance training over 6-months, saw signs of reversing the aging process.
The study focused on the length telomeres, the caps at the ends of our chromosomes which protect DNA from deterioration, and the activity of telomerase, an enzyme that helps replenish lost telomeres.
During the aging process, it is natural for telomeres to shorten and deteriorate, making the body's cells more vulnerable to damage and repair more difficult.
The researchers discovered that both telomerase length and activity increased by two- to three-fold. This showed that running, either through endurance or interval training, slowed or even reversed signs of cellular ageing.
Recent studies have shown clear cognitive benefits from regular exercise.
A hallmark study saw a large group of runners run at a moderate pace for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, for three weeks. Those in the running group showed improved signs of psychological functioning and better focus during the day.
Running works by boosting the chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory and learning.
Those aged between 25 and 45 have the greatest cognitive benefit to gain from running.
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Written by Matthew Sweeney, Co-Founder
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.