Looking for another hobby to occupy your day during these difficult times? Want to do something more physical with your time during a study break? Running can be a healthy activity for you! As a former cross country runner, I can definitely say that running is one of the most difficult yet rewarding sports that I have ever done. From building endurance to developing a running pace, there were definitely times where it was physically grueling and other times where I had felt energized. However, running has also helped me build my confidence and gave me the chance to meet amazing people. My love of running that was developed from cross country is something that I would definitely pass down to anyone who is interested in running and to those who are unsure about it. So without further ado, here are my top seven reasons why you should take up running!
- You Feel Good About Yourself After a Workout
After going for a run, you may feel optimistic, accomplished, and motivated to continue on with running. These feelings you may have after a run is caused by endorphins which refer to our “body’s natural pain relievers… [which] are released into your bodies as a response to situations like pain or stress, and can bring about feelings of euphoria, calm, relaxation, and well-being.” These feelings are also known as “runner’s high” due to the fact that running “can produce endorphins” and pain tolerance. Additionally, running can reduce stress and improve sleep patterns which not only can make life easier but can also build one’s confidence in the process.
- Running Boosts Your Mental Health
One of the best things you can do to boost your mental health is through any physical activity (in this case, running). Not only does running play a role in increasing one’s confidence and reducing stress, but running can also help those with depression and anxiety. Running can improve your mood, your focus, and can even benefit creative performance. According to a 2004 study, people who suffered from panic disorder were asked to “run for 20 minutes 3 times a week for 10 weeks.” As a result of this, many of the people who participated in the study “showed a significant reduction in depression” and showed the same benefits after four months. So running is very beneficial for your mental health, especially if you are struggling during these difficult times.
With the increased amount of stress in the world due to the current pandemic, running can significantly help you feel more positive and calm and can also give you a reason to go outside, especially now since we are socially distanced from one another.
- Running Improves Your Cardiovascular Health
Not only are benefits to mental health associated with running, but there are also many other health benefits that are associated with running. One of these benefits is that running can tremendously improve your cardiovascular health. When you start running, you may suffer from lung burn which is when our bodies are becoming “naturally inclined” to take in more oxygen compared to when our bodies are at rest. As a result of this inclination, our lungs are able to become stronger which not only makes it easier for us to breathe after running but can also help us to build endurance while running for a certain period of time. Running can ultimately lead to a decreased “resting heart rate and blood pressure” and it can also lead to increased heart rate which can supply “working muscles with added oxygen”. While you are running, you may notice “more muscle in your quads and calves” and this growth in muscle shows an increase in cardiac strength. As a result of a healthy heart, your heart can “pump more blood out with every beat” which makes for a more “efficient and resilient” cardiovascular system.
- Running Reduces Your Risk of Chronic Illness
Another health benefit that is associated with running is that your risk of any chronic illness including heart attacks, strokes, vision loss, and other chronic illnesses can be reduced through running. According to a research review conducted by Sports Medicine, following a running schedule “reduces resting systolic blood pressure to the tune of about 4.2 mmHg”. which can significantly decrease your chances of a chronic illness. So if you go out of your way to improve your “body’s ability to control blood glucose and [reduce] inflammation” through running, your chances of a chronic illness could become slim.
- Running Teaches You the Practice of Setting Goals
When I ran cross country, I was taught the importance of setting goals for yourself, whether those goals revolved around beating your best time in a race or improving your endurance. As a result of learning about the practice of setting goals, I not only became a better cross country runner, but I also developed good habits that helped me with my running form and endurance. Goal setting can be difficult to achieve especially during a pandemic where you may feel unmotivated to accomplish anything. However, through the practice of breaking down a goal “into step-by-step processes”, you can motivate yourself to do anything that you set your mind to with running.
- Running Can Lead to Lifelong Friendships
Although running is often a solitary activity (especially now that we are in a pandemic), you can find people to run with. One of the best things about running with people is that you can motivate each other to accomplish any running goals that you may have for yourself or even as a group. As a result of bonding through an often difficult activity, you can create strong bonds with others which can lead to friendship. If you are willing to start a running group, then be sure to follow any safety precautions such as running with a mask on or even meeting up virtually for “a pre-run stretch and post-run cool down”. Not only can running with a group provide a place where you may feel supported, but running with a group can also “combat social isolation”.
- Running Strengthens Your Musculoskeletal System
The last health benefit and final reason why you should run is that running can bring strength to your musculoskeletal system. When you run, you use a variety of muscles in order to run on a variety of surfaces such as the road, gravel, grass, and other surfaces. With each type of surface you run on, you could very easily be running uphill, downhill, or on a flat surface. So it’s important to develop your muscles in a way where you can be prepared to run on any of these surfaces and on any set of roads. It’s especially important to maintain bone strength as you get older because at the start of menopause, “hormonal shifts cause bone density to decline…[which can] increas[e] your chances of osteopenia (weakening of your bones), osteoporosis, and fractures”. So running while you’re still young “helps you maintain the density you have and decrease the rate at which it seeps away as you age.” So maintaining your bone strength can serve you many benefits as you get older.
I hope that all of my reasons for why you should start running have inspired you to run. If you ever decide to run, I hope that you develop a love for the activity as much as I have and that it helps you to become your best self. However, if you decide that running is not your thing, then I hope that you find another aerobic activity or any other activity that brings you joy!