Run Your Way to Health: How Regular Jogging Combats Disease and Enhances Longevity

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Cross Training For Runners
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David Dack

You already know that running is important; otherwise, you’d have spent your money on chocolate bars and pretzels instead of your running shoes.

Why is running so worthwhile?

The reasons run the gamut: to lose weight, relieve stress, eat more without gaining weight, challenge oneself, stay young, get into better shape, etc.

And that’s not the whole story, as we’re going to see in today’s post.

Exercise, in general, prevents a host of health issues that can cause severe or chronic illness, disability, and even early death, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, etc.

In today’s post, I’ll look into some of the ways running and exercise help protect against common diseases and illnesses.

Are you excited?

Here we go.

1. Run away from Cancer

Cancer, a formidable adversary in the modern era, has claimed the lives of millions across the globe. It haunts us in various forms, with colon, breast, lung, and rectal cancers among the most prevalent and devastating. The mere diagnosis of one of these malignancies often feels like a grim sentence.

But here’s the ray of hope: regular exercise emerges as a powerful shield against many types of cancer, including those notorious ones. A comprehensive review of 170 epidemiological studies featured in the Journal of Nutrition offers this beacon of optimism.

Still skeptical? Let’s delve into some more compelling research. A study conducted by the Public Health Sciences Division examined subjects engaged in over an hour of daily cardio exercise six days a week. The remarkable outcome was a substantial reduction in cellular propagation patterns associated with colon polyps—a precursor to cancer.

In another study, a meticulous meta-analysis of 67 articles published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal scrutinized lifestyle factors affecting breast cancer recurrence rates. It considered weight management, exercise, dietary choices, smoking, and more. The conclusion is? Exercise and weight management take center stage in reducing cancer recurrence rates.

But the benefits of regular exercise extend even further. It can alleviate some of the harsh side effects of cancer treatment, such as fatigue and nausea, providing relief for countless cancer patients.

Here’s a staggering statistic: approximately a third of all cancers can be prevented by embracing an active lifestyle, adopting healthy eating habits, and maintaining a proper weight, as per the Canadian Cancer Society. Moreover, research demonstrates that for individuals with colorectal cancer, regular exercise can slash the risks of cancer recurrence or death by up to 50 percent.

Curious about the mechanism behind some of the these benefits? Let’s dive a little deeper

On a cellular scale, exercise, including running, increases the production of antioxidants in the body. These antioxidants combat free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can damage cellular structures.

The accumulation of such damage over time can lead to mutations, potentially causing cancer. Furthermore, running helps maintain a balance in hormone levels, especially insulin. High insulin levels can promote the growth of cancer cells. By regularizing these levels, running indirectly reduces the risk of certain cancers.

2. Dodge Heart Disease

When it comes to safeguarding your heart’s health, cardiovascular exercise, especially running, emerges as a formidable ally. It does wonders for your heart muscles and has a positive impact on your blood pressure, as attested by the American Heart Association (AHA).

According to the AHA, a mere 150 minutes of brisk physical exercise per week is sufficient to maintain a healthy blood pressure. This guideline, found on their website, underscores the significant benefits of regular exercise.

But it’s not just the AHA that champions this cause. A plethora of research studies have arrived at similar conclusions. Regular exercise not only lowers blood pressure but also boosts good cholesterol (HDL), reduces bad cholesterol (LDL), enhances the working capacity of your heart and lungs, and improves blood flow—critical factors in preventing heart disease.

One noteworthy study published in Circulation delves into the realm of aerobic exercises like running, swimming, and cycling. It found that these activities have a positive impact on blood pressure and are beneficial for individuals dealing with hypertension.

Further reinforcing this evidence is research conducted at The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Life Science Division. Their findings highlight how running can lower the risks of high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol—key risk factors associated with cardiovascular problems.

So how come running can have such a positive impact on your heart?

Let me explain. Running’s influence on heart health isn’t just about calorie burn. It induces endothelial cells lining the arteries to produce nitric oxide, a molecule that relaxes blood vessels, increases blood flow, and decreases plaque growth and blood clotting.

Additionally, running helps in the production of more high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good cholesterol”) and reduces low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad cholesterol”). This lipid adjustment minimizes the risk of fatty deposits in the arteries, which can lead to heart diseases.

3. Runners Suffer From Fewer Disabilities And Live Longer

Here’s an eye-opener: Running can slow down the aging process, according to research conducted at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

In this groundbreaking study, 538 runners and 423 healthy non-runners, all aged 50 and over, were tracked for a remarkable 21-year period. Each year, they underwent a thorough health and disability assessment, which gauged their ability to perform everyday tasks such as walking, opening a milk carton, getting out of a chair, and cutting meat, among others.

The results were nothing short of astonishing. Older runners reported experiencing fewer disabilities and were an astounding 50 percent less likely to pass away prematurely compared to their non-running counterparts. By the end of the 21-year study, a staggering 85 percent of the runners were still thriving, while the non-running group saw their numbers dwindle to just 66 percent.

Further substantiating these findings is another long-term prospective study. This one examined over 370 members of a running club, all aged 50 or older, alongside 249 control subjects. Once again, the results reinforced the idea that running can be a key factor in preventing disability and early mortality among the elderly.

4. Outdo Obesity

Is obesity a disease? Well, I’d argue that it is.

Now, here’s the kicker: One of the most effective ways to combat obesity and get into better shape is none other than running. That’s right, hitting the pavement can be your ticket to preventing excess weight gain and shedding those stubborn pounds for good.

I mean, think about it. When I ask my friends or readers why they run, a whopping 8 out of 10 tell me it’s all about achieving or maintaining a healthy weight.

The calorie-burning power of running is where the magic happens. Clocking in at around 100 calories burned per mile, running is a top-tier calorie torcher. Just picture this: A 200-pound person can incinerate over 900 calories in just one hour.

And there’s solid science to back it up. A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise analyzed data from over 100,000 runners and found that those who logged 30 or more miles per week gained significantly fewer pounds than those who ran less than ten miles.

Obesity, as you may already know, is a major contributor to type II diabetes. According to research, shedding about 5 to 7 percent of your body weight can slash the risk of developing this condition by a whopping 58 percent. That’s a game-changing statistic.

What’s more, this same research discovered that consistent exercise dramatically improves insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism. Translation? Your body’s cells can more effectively transport glucose into your liver, muscles, and fat tissue.

But here’s the catch: Weight loss is a numbers game. You’ll only shed pounds if you burn more calories than you consume. Pair your running regimen with a healthy and sensible diet to create the calorie deficit necessary for weight loss. Otherwise, reaching your ideal body weight might remain just out of reach.

That’s not the whole story.

Running elevates the metabolic rate, not just during the activity but also in the hours following the exercise, a phenomenon known as the afterburn effect or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). This heightened metabolic rate helps in efficient calorie utilization. Moreover, running increases insulin sensitivity, ensuring glucose is taken up by muscles more effectively for energy, reducing the risk of type II diabetes.

5. Fortify Your Bones

Now, let’s talk about something crucial: fortifying your bones. Osteoporosis is a significant public health concern, impacting a staggering 200 million people worldwide, with around 40 million of them residing in the United States, according to the National Institute of Health.

This condition leads to weakened, brittle bones, especially in areas like the hips, spine, wrists, and shoulders. Osteoporosis occurs when the body either loses too much bone density, produces too little of it, or sometimes both.

But here’s where running comes to the rescue once again. In a study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers examined the bone density of 122 marathon runners, 81 half-marathon runners, and 10K race athletes. They put their bones to the test using ultrasonography assessments of the right and left calcaneus and compared the results to those of 75 sedentary individuals.

The findings were pretty clear: The runners boasted significantly healthier bone density compared to the sedentary group. But it doesn’t stop there. The scans also revealed that half-marathon and marathon runners had even better bone density than their shorter-distance counterparts.

And if that’s not enough evidence for you, research out of the University of Missouri showed that running might be even more effective at building strong bones than traditional resistance training.

So what’s the link between running and stronger bones?

Let’s delve a little deeper. When we run, the repeated weight-bearing action stresses the bones, which respond by stimulating bone-forming cells called osteoblasts. This process of bone remodeling helps increase bone density.

What’s more?

Running triggers the release of growth factors and promotes the absorption of essential minerals like calcium and phosphorus, which are crucial for bone health. This dynamic process ensures bones become stronger and less susceptible to conditions like osteoporosis.

How Running Prevent Chronic Diseases – The Conclusion

There you have it.

The above are some of the common diseases you can prevent with regular exercise.

Don’t get me wrong.

It’s not the full list by any means, nor does it mean that exercise can turn you into a disease-free immortal human.

But it’s still one of the best things you can do to keep living a healthier and more productive life.

The rest is just detail

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions below.

Thank you for dropping by.

Keep Running Strong

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