Running as an activity has been around for many centuries and still to this day, is one of the world’s most popular forms of exercise. It has the highest participation rates in Australia in terms of physical activity and about one in five Australians will try running or jogging at some point in their life.
Are you one of those people that wonders why running is so popular and beneficial to your health?
We've compiled a list of the many benefits of running and reasons why people simply love to run.
Life can feel tough sometimes, so it's really important to put steps in place to look after your mental well-being. Good news, the evidence stacks up and tells us that running is great for your mind as it releases “happy” chemicals — endorphins and endocannabinoids.
The release of these body chemicals result in:
Studies show that meditation in any form can help to reduce stress, control anxiety, lengthen your attention span and improve your
Running not only clears your head, but can also stimulate deep thinking and problem solving. You can't be distracted by the things that are usually around you while you run eg. phone, TV, emails, and chores, meaning you have dedicated time to think about other things. Many runner's confirm that taking a break from stressful work or issues and going for a run helps them return feeling rejuvenated, insightful, and ready to tackle the problem.
Running is a fantastic form of exercise to promote a healthy heart, as it reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease by:
Running promotes strong and healthy bones. Like your muscles, your bones need to be worked to maintain their strength. As running is a weight-bearing exercise, it’s a great way to work your bones without placing excess strain on them. This exercise also stimulates bone osteogenesis (bone formation), that can increase your bone density — therefore creating healthy, strong bones.
Before COVID-19, type 2 diabetes was the epidemic of the 21st century. Approximately 1.7 million Australians currently have this disease, and rates continue to climb as another 280 Australians are diagnosed with diabetes every day. Of those 1.7 million, 85-90% are type 2 diabetics, which is a preventable disease. Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body becomes insulin resistant, resulting in high blood sugar levels that aren't good for your body. Regularly running will improve your insulin sensitivity and blood glucose control. It is important to note if you are a diabetic to consult your doctor before you begin an exercise regime.
Does anyone else have trouble remembering what they had for dinner two nights ago? Well lets hit the track, because it turns out running
can have positive benefits on your short and long term memory.
Every time you exercise, you exercise both physically and cognitively. A 2017 study completed by Chieffi et al found that high intensity aerobic exercise (eg. running) increases the growth factors of your brain, promoting the hippocampus area of the brain to grow and form new neuronal connections. This is great because the hippocampus is the area of the brain involved in memory and learning.
Interestingly, this study also reported that the regions of the brain that benefit from exercise are the same regions that deteriorate with age — basically making running the anti-aging hero of the future.
Running is currently one of the cheapest and easiest ways to lose weight when comparing it to other exercise options. Gym memberships can cost anywhere between $15-$60 per week, and let's not even get started on the costs of a personal trainer. Combine this with petrol costs to get you to and from the gym, and any equipment that’s necessary and it leaves you with a pretty expensive hobby. If you were to run outside, all you need is a supportive pair of running shoes and you're good to go. Thus practically $0, as the majority will generally already have the gear. So if you're looking for a low cost activity, running is a great option.
Running can also be extremely time-efficient as just 15-30min can have enormous benefits. You can easily change up your sessions from speedier, interval sessions to slow relaxing runs. All different running sessions encourage weight loss, by sitting in different heart rate zones. Just make sure you do a good warm up before starting any exercise.
As mentioned, any type of running or jogging encourages weight loss as this form of exercise is great in burning calories. When compared to other forms of cardio exercises you may find at a gym eg. rowing machine, stationary bike or stair climber, running was found to burn far more calories than these other machines.
If you've ever run a fairly long distance before, say 10km or more, it's likely your legs were tired and sore the next day. Well that's because your legs carry the largest muscles in your body, and running targets them all — thighs, quads, hamstrings, calves and gluteus maximus (yes, your butt). This means running gives you a killer leg workout that you might not have been able to accomplish at the gym.
Your legs aren't the only area of your body that reaps the benefits of running, in fact running has a more positive impact on your core than you may think. You will automatically engage your abdominal muscles to maintain good posture and keep your torso upright, as well as stabilise yourself while your arms and legs are moving. Engaging your core like this works all your abdominal muscles including your rectus abdominis (muscles that form a 'six-pack') and deeper core muscles like your obliques and transverse abdominis.
If you haven't run much before, we always suggest starting with a couple of brisk walking sessions then moving onto slow running/walking session. It should take between 6-8 weeks to build up to a regular running/jogging routine, so don't try and rush it. Gradually increase your pace and time spent running each session to allow your muscles and bones to get use to the exercise.