Mountain running

The Benefits of Running

Running is an incredibly beneficial activity to engage in. It provides a wide range of health benefits, both physical and mental.

Let’s start with the heart, which thrives on running.

What running does for your heart

Running makes the heart work less while doing more. With exercise the heart muscle’s fibers lengthen and strengthen, its chambers enlarge and as a result can pump more blood with each contraction. Before training, one stroke of the heart may pump less than half a cup; but after training, each beat may pump almost a whole cup. Because it pumps more with each beat, it beats slower and has more rest between contractions.

From this training, over a period of time the heartbeats measured when you are at rest can show a decrease from 10 to 20 beats per minute. The small arteries that carry blood to the heart enlarge with training and are able to supply more oxygen-rich blood for the heart. Training also results in a gradual lowering of blood pressure.

But this is only one of the things running can do for you. Let’s continue.

What running does for your lungs

Strenuous exercise causes the muscle fibers to demand lots of oxygen. They get it from the blood, which picks it up from the lungs. The lungs, with their hundreds of millions of moist, foam-like bubbles of tissue known as alveoli, are efficient suppliers of oxygen to the blood that streams by them. They are very adaptable, changing quickly in response to exercise. The lungs’ blood vessels dilate, increasing the area where oxygen passes into the bloodstream. The breathing muscles of the abdomen, diaphragm and thorax become stronger and more efficient. The amount of air the lungs of a trained runner can take in increases greatly-the volume per minute perhaps tripling.

What running does for your blood

Aerobic exercise produces in greater quantities the enzyme fibrinolysin. It dissolves blood clots, and it is theorized that it may also dissolve long-standing clots in the coronary arteries that could cause heart attacks. In one test the clot-dissolving ability of blood nearly quadrupled in some persons engaged in a 10-week exercising program. Trained runners have higher levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) in their blood. HDL transports excess cholesterol from artery walls, reducing buildups of fats that might clog vessels and trigger heart attacks. In trained muscles adjacent arteries sprout new branches and capillaries become more dense, making more oxygen available to muscle fibers. Exercise also increases the number of red blood cells, the oxygen carriers.

What running does for your nerves

Nerves, even the tiny hairlike tendrils, become more efficient at transmitting electrochemical impulses, and thereby more effectively activate muscle fibers to increase endurance and ultimately strength. With training and use, reflexes replace voluntary actions and movement becomes more efficient. Unneeded muscles relax more and energy is conserved. Dr. Lucien Brouha, authority on the physiology of athletics, states: “The final result is that for a given performance a decrease in energy expenditure occurs which can reach one-quarter of the total energy needed before training.” Men are not mice, yet it is noteworthy that young mice that exercised developed larger motor neurons, a type of nerve cells, than those that didn’t.

What running does for your mind

Runners speak of the joys of running and “natural highs.” More specifically, a psychiatric hospital in Knoxville, Tennessee, found that running made patients less anxious. Dr. Alan Clark of St. Joseph’s Infirmary in Atlanta, Georgia, says: “It is well known that exercise is the best tranquilizer. I refuse to medicate patients with simple neurotic anxiety until they give aerobic exercises an adequate trial.” An article in Medical World News was headlined: “Jogging May Keep Depressives Off Therapist’s Couch.” It reported two studies, from the University of Wisconsin and the University of Virginia, that confirmed this view. One study has shown that exercise stimulates production in the brain of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which relieves depression.

How to Develop a Running Habit

Is it possible to make running as a habit?

Of course and sometimes very easy — if you are convinced about the health benefits of running you can do it very easy.

Another important reason is that you like running otherwise you can better choose another sport. It has no sense to obligate yourself every day to run because after some time you will lose the courage to run regularly.

Here are some ways to develop the habit of running.

Have Discipline

The first step is always some discipline. Maybe you don’t like running when you start but after some time you will feel better and give you the courage to run regularly. Before you know you are addicted to this sport and it gives you the energy you need.

Find Others

Making running as a habit is easier if you run in a group; the social aspect is an important advantage. If you join a club you meet other people who like running and you can practice this sport very intensive or in a relaxed way. In both cases there are days when you can talk to other runners during your run. This gives you the advantage of sportive and social benefits during your run.

Learn the Benefits

Being convinced about the health benefits is another important issue to make running as a habit. Some of these health benefits are:

  • more energy
  • reducing stress
  • losing weight
  • positive effect on your cholesterol level
  • reducing blood pressure
  • a positive effect on your appearance
  • a lower heart rate which protects you against heart attacks

Make it a Priority

Making your run as a priority of your day is a good way for making it to a habit. It is best that you start your day with a run early in the morning. A shower after your run will give you a relaxed feeling and the necessary energy for the rest of the day.

Not everyone has this possibility because they need start working very early in the morning or they need to take the train at 6 am to make the trip to their work. In this case running when you come home from your work is a good timing to start your run. Even when you feel tired after your work you will be more relaxed when you are back home and have taken a shower. This gives you the benefit of enjoying yourself better during the evening.

Track Progess

Writing down some details about your run in a notebook is an important issue which can motivate you in the future. Some details like the distance you ran, how much time you spent, your weight before and after the run, the weather circumstances, information about the calories you have taken before your run and some other interesting information can help you for making progress in the future.

Pay attention to some signs which show that you make progress like by example you can sleep better than before, more energy during the day, an improvement of your general health like lower cholesterol, a drop of your heart rate, stronger muscles and some other positive effects! Feeling all these improvements motivates you to make running as a habit.

Read for Motivation

Some other systems to make this sport as a habit is reading some books or magazines about running. You will be more interested in this sport and read useful tips for your run. Making an appointment with someone else to run together makes it easier that you don’t cancel your run.

Have a Plan

Make a good plan about your running activity and if there is one day you don’t have much time; give priority to your run. Forget other activities like watching television, playing games or going to pub for a glass of beer but think about the health benefits of your run and before you know you are addicted to this sport.