Today we thought we’d take a step back and look at something basic – the reasons we run. It’s easy to get caught up in gear reviews, workout plans, and running routes, but why do we run in the first place? There are other ways to stay in shape, and more than any other athletic activity, running is the workout people dread the most (well that and maybe “leg days”). Those who don’t run very often but think about upping the frequency will benefit from a list like this as well. Let’s get into the main reasons we run.
For almost everyone, health benefits are a big reason to run. Cardio workouts can do wonders for the body and long term health, and it is the most popular reason to run.
Often there is a “problem area,” be it the stomach/abs, butt, etc. People always want to lose weight, and while there are near endless crunches and other workouts targeted at weight loss, nothing quite sheds the pounds like cardio, namely running. Of course, diet and other exercises are an important element of weight loss, but running really puts you on the fast track for some degree of weight loss. Running should never be “just about weight loss,” but it sure is a nice benefit.
Heart Health / Lower Blood Pressure
Millions of Americans face health problems associated with high blood pressure, and the best way to combat this is to work the heart out regularly and get it beating faster for at least 30 minutes. Running is a natural way to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and it sure beats taking medication for blood pressure!
You want to live as long as you can, right? Well running is an excellent way to tack on a few extra years to your life. Research has shown that people who run tend to live longer than those who live primarily sedentary (inactive) lifestyles. Sure you might miss a few episodes of your favorite TV show, but running is worth the effort if you want to maximize your lifespan. It can be kind of grim to think about, but it’s well worth knowing.
Keep Your Bones / Joints Strong
The key to maintaining your bone health and strength lies in how many steps you take per day. Each step stimulates bone growth or really “bone maintenance” in a small way, and those who take more steps tend to have stronger bones than those who are inactive throughout the day. While walking is a good start to raising your step count, running is far better for your bones. In addition, running strengthens the cartilage in your joints by increasing oxygen and blood flow to those tissues. It has become common to think that running will break down your joints after time, but the truth is the opposite. Of course moderation is the key when it comes to joint strength. If you push yourself too hard, injuries can occur. As long as you’re not overdoing it, running is great therapy for your bones and joints.
Running impacts more than just your physical health, it can have positive effects on your mental health as well. Here are a few benefits to look forward to:
The “Runner’s High”
Almost everyone has heard of the “runner’s high,” but not everyone has experienced it. The effects of running on the mind are numerous, but an important one for everyone is the invigoration that comes after a good run. If you don’t feel it immediately, don’t worry. Sometimes it may take a little recovery after the run before the runner’s high sinks in. The source of this high is positive chemicals, namely endorphins, that are released in the brain during a period of intense physical activity. Endorphins are the brain’s version of feel good chemicals, sort of a natural opiate. The best part is releasing these chemicals has no negative impact on your body. Feel free to feel good while you run!
Is work stress invading your life? Do you feel irritable during the day and for no good reason? Running is a natural way to combat these stresses. Just like the runner’s high, this relief can slip in almost undetected, but often you’ll find your stress is lessened after running. Again those endorphins are to blame, and they are a welcome guest in any stressful day. A good workout can help you sleep in the evening, and proper rest can reduce stress as well.
Clear mental functioning and running are tied together, and there are couple ways this can benefit you. First, running can impact your clarity in day to day tasks, and you’ll find that the day after a run you’re sharper and more apt to take on complex tasks. This can really be a leg up in a demanding job. In addition, running gives you the chance to reflect on your thoughts and come up with problem solving strategies for the things that trouble you most. Is something weighing heavy on your mind recently? One of the best ways to search for resolution on that problem is to go for a run. You’ll be surprised what you may come up with!
The positive health and mental aspects of running are great reasons to get out more, but the lifestyle and social aspects of running can be just as important for some people:
Substitute For The Gym
Let’s face it, some people are just not gym goers. The gym attracts all sorts of different people, and if we’re real, not everyone jives with some of these gym regulars. On top of this, monthly fees, lengthy contracts and other financial concerns can keep people away from the gym. After all, sometimes it feels like the rep at the gym counter is trying to trick you into some commitment you don’t understand rather than help you stay fit. For all theses reasons, running is a good alternative. It is free and you can do it almost anywhere.
Fresh air is still the most inexpensive form of therapy, and it’s right outside just waiting to be inhaled! Need we say more?
Explore New Places
When you run on a treadmill or worse, sit on the couch, the only place you truly explore is a TV screen. When you get out into the world and run, you’ll find yourself discovering new elements of your neighborhood or favorite trail. You may find new restaurants or shops, new parks or even a new house for sale or apartment for rent. It’s funny how much we miss what is around us until we explore the area on foot. As far as trails and trail running goes, you’ll be able to discover beautiful wild places while getting a workout. Truly there is nothing quite like that combination!
Running is an activity that works well alone or in a group. While some may prefer to go it alone when they run, there are plenty of running groups you can join. Run clubs circulate around activities like meeting singles, running with your dog, running at breweries with afterward refreshments and so much more. You can also join more formal training clubs with like-minded individuals training for the same events as you.
Finally, running has plenty of lifestyle gear to go along with the hobby, and now you have an excuse to check out some of this cool equipment. Cool running shoes, running belts and armbands, running jackets and pants, and other items are now more appropriate than ever for your wardrobe.