Benefits of Running

"Why Run ? "

benefits of runningWhat are the benefits of running - as compared to other sports. And what should you be aware of when building up your running ?

This small piece is based on an email I received through this site from a visitor.

She asked :

I was wondering if running is a good thing for me to do. I use to run track in middle school and in high school, now I am 30 ish and I wanted to know if I would be a good fit to run.

The Benefits of Running

This is why running may be one of the best forms of exercise you can pick.

Top 4 reasons :

  • Using a wide range of muscles - in a natural manner. This is unique to running. Our natural way of movement is through walking/running. What seems to be the case in running is that runners get a natural tone of the muscles. As oppose to for example cyclists where some muscle groups tend to get overly worked and the stress unevenly distributed (especially to localized muscles of the quad and lower legs)
  • Working both elasticity and muscular contractions. With running you need to adapt to dealing with about 3 times your bodyweight in each landing. Now, this impact needs to be absorbed by your muscles, ligaments and tendons more so than any other endurance sport. You can easily go for a long swim or a long ride on your bike, 2-3 hours at a good pace, but with running - 30 minutes at that intensity will make you feel alot more tired. This is probably caused by the complexity of the running movement ; which in reality is a matter of body control/balance in the landing, elasticity from the tendons, fast dynamic muscle contractions and of course the metabolic component/delivery of oxygen to the working muscles. This fine tuned system, working at full speed demands more from the body than any other endurance sport. The benefits of this running effect ? More effective training is less minutes.
  • Endorphins and a "well being". Studies has shown that running (at any intensity) has the same effect as drugs on moderate depression. Likely, this is because by all these different systems working together - and implementing a great hormonal responds within the body. This psychological effect should not be underestimated.
  • Effectiveness. 30 minutes is enough, especially when done at the "right intensity" in a proper plan.

What to Be Aware Of - Despite the Benefits of Running

Now, there are some precautions when it comes to running, though the benefits. These are :

  • Injury control. As a runner you need to take more care of injuries vs other endurance sports with less shock in the landing. This is especially true about the achilles and the knee. Studies show that those who have to stop running, 17 % is due to achilles problems and 9 % knee injuries. In addition to that, almost 40 % of injuries come early in a training cycle - meaning when you have had a "rest" period or when you just started training as a runner. Therefore, start easy when you run !
  • Alternate easy and hard training days and intensity control. Because of the large impact on the legs, overtraining is easier on running than many other sports. This, however, can easily be avoided by alternating easy and hard training days and keeping the intensity right (see heart rate training and overtraining)
  • Pick good "equipment" I have more and more respect for this one - without proper shoes you will be destined to injuries. I have written a piece about that here best marathon shoes.

If you are just starting running you may also want to alternate running and walking in the beginning. Check out this one for that couch to 5k

All the best with taking advantage of the benefits of running !


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