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8 Surprising benefits of running

Ashley Crossman, Ph.D. is a certified RRCA running coach and ACE personal trainer. She owns her own coaching business, She Runs Strong, and has been the running coach for two charity training teams in Phoenix, Arizona: the MS Rockstars (...

Running can not only improve your health, but your wellbeing too

Running is great for your health, but do you know about all the different ways it can help you?

Here are 8 benefits of running:

  1. Let’s get the obvious benefits out of the way first: improved health and fitness. Running is one of the best activities for conditioning the cardiovascular system. Studies have shown that runners’ hearts are more efficient than those of sedentary people, pumping a larger volume per beat. Runners typically have a lower resting heart rate, as well as increased lung capacity. Other health benefits of running include stronger joints and bones, stronger muscles and improved mental function, clarity and memory.
  2. The other commonly cited benefit of running is weight loss or weight maintenance. Any exercise is good when one is trying to lose weight — however, running is extremely beneficial because it is one of the most efficient ways to burn calories. A rough estimate is that a person of average weight burns 100 calories per mile of running. That number increases if you weigh more or if you are a less efficient runner because you use more energy to cover the same distance. The calorie burn, however, continues even after you stop running because your resting energy expenditure remains elevated for up to several hours.
  3. Research has shown that running, and other forms of aerobic exercise, also helps improve our quality of sleep. Those who exercise regularly have proven to fall asleep easier and stay asleep longer than sedentary people. They are also more alert during the day and have less daytime drowsiness than those who do not exercise.
  4. Running is probably the cheapest and most accessible sport there is. While it is possible to spend a lot of money on expensive running clothes and gear, the only thing you actually need to invest in is a good pair of running shoes. You do not need a gym. Running outside is free and available anywhere, and you do not need any extra equipment. Invest $100-$150 in a good pair of running shoes and you instantly have three to six months of free exercise.
  5. Running can be done with the whole family. A very common excuse for not exercising is that it takes away from family time. Running can be a great way for the family to be together and catch up on the day. If your kids are small enough, a jogging stroller is a great way to get them outside and introduce them to physical activity. If they are old enough to run with you or bike beside you, this can be a perfect time to talk to them about their life, school and friends. Your dog would also not only benefit from a run with you, but will be much happier for it, too.
  6. While it can be a solo sport if you choose, running can be a very social sport and can lead to new friendships. Runners are typically very friendly and welcoming and want to share their love and knowledge of running with others. Joining a running group or finding a running partner in your area can often lead to new and long-lasting friendships. It typically starts with a bond over running and then blossoms so much deeper than that.
  7. Related to No. 6, running provides people with a sense of community. Runners love to support one another, share stories and turn group runs into fun hangouts, often involving food and drinks. Even if you prefer to run on your own, finding other runners or running groups and teams on social media can provide an instant sense of community and belonging — no matter how long or short you have been running.
  8. Running can be a great way to give back to the community. Local running races often contribute part or all of the money they make in registration fees to charities in the community. These can vary from anything from local dog shelters to cancer research to schools. You can find this information on the race websites. If you want to do even more, there are many organizations in which you raise money for them and they provide anything from training to travel expenses to your goal race. Some examples of these organizations are: Team in Training, benefiting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society; St. Jude Heroes, benefiting the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; Solemates, benefiting Girls on the Run; Team Up, benefiting Autism Speaks; and many more.
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