What Does Running Do To Your Body?

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Cross Training For Runners
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David Dack

Ever wondered how running transforms not just your body, but your whole self? Well, you’re in exactly the right spot.

You see, running isn’t just about speed or endurance, it’s a whole lot more, providing benefits for your body, mind, and soul. Sure, it starts with the simple, rhythmic motion of one foot in front of the other, but the perks, over the years, are too many too count.

In this post, I’m going deep into how running impacts your body. I’ll talk about how it builds your muscles, sure, but also how it frees your mind and floods you with those feel-good vibes.

Sounds like a good idea?

Then let’s get started.

Protects you Against Cardiovascular Disease

A study from the Journal of American College of Cardiology throws in some impressive numbers – regular runners can slash their risk of dying from heart diseases by a whopping 45%!

And get this, even if you run just five minutes daily, you’re cutting your risk of cardiovascular disease nearly in half. That’s less time than it takes to make your morning coffee!

So, how does running work its magic? Here’s the breakdown:

  • Boosts HDL (Good Cholesterol): Just like a superhero, HDL cholesterol sweeps through your bloodstream, cleaning up the bad guys (LDL cholesterol) and keeping your arteries clear.
  • Ups Your Lung Game: Running is like a workout for your lungs. Each time you lace up and hit the pavement, you’re training your lungs to be more efficient, increasing their capacity to fuel your body with oxygen.
  • Lowers Blood Pressure: Think of running as a natural blood pressure medication. Each run helps keep your blood vessels and heart in top shape, reducing the strain on them and keeping that blood pressure in check.
  • Regulates Blood Sugar: Running helps in balancing your blood sugar levels. It encourages your muscles to use glucose more efficiently, acting like a natural regulator for your body’s insulin and glucose levels.

Note – Check out my “who invented running”  guide.

Running is Good For The Joints And Bones

Running isn’t just about leg muscles; it’s a holistic workout for the ligaments surrounding your joints too. And these benefits aren’t just anecdotal; they’re backed by science.

A study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research revealed that runners have enhanced joint stability and ligament strength compared to non-runners. This finding is crucial as it debunks the myth that running is harmful to your joints.

Instead, it highlights running as a beneficial activity for joint health, offering a unique set of advantages that you might not find in other forms of exercise.

Respiratory System Improvements: Breathing Life into Your Run

With consistent running, your lungs learn to expand more, pulling in more air with each breath. Think of it as upgrading your lungs’ volume, allowing you to take in more of that crucial oxygen your body craves during a run.

It’s not just about lung capacity; the muscles involved in breathing, like your diaphragm and intercostals, get a workout too.

These muscles strengthen and become more efficient, making deep breaths feel easier and more natural. This improvement means you can handle higher intensities and longer distances without feeling like you’re gasping for air.

Mastering Oxygen Management:

Running teaches your body to be an oxygen-efficient machine. It’s not just about how much oxygen you can take in; it’s also about how effectively your body uses that oxygen.

As you build your running regimen, your body becomes better at extracting oxygen from the air in your lungs and delivering it to your muscles. This process, known as oxygen utilization, is key to boosting your aerobic capacity – the foundation for running faster, longer, and more efficiently.

Lose Weight

Looking to lose weight? Then running is your most reliable ally in this journey

This Medical College of Wisconsin study showcased the impressive calorie-burning capability of running. Blazing through up to 800 calories an hour? That’s remarkable efficiency. To put it in perspective, this is more than what you’d typically burn through popular workouts like cycling, stair climbing, or rowing. Running stands out in the fitness realm as a top-tier calorie burner.

The benefits of a good run extend well beyond the time you spend on the track or treadmill. This is where EPOC – excess post-oxygen consumption – comes into play. Think of it as your body’s natural calorie incinerator that keeps working long after your run. This physiological effect means your body continues to burn calories at an elevated rate even as you cool down. Running doesn’t just give you an intense workout; it sets up a calorie-burning ripple effect that lasts for hours afterward.

Running Relieves Stress

The moment your feet start hitting the ground, your body becomes a factory of happiness-inducing chemicals. Endorphins, often referred to as the body’s natural painkillers, are released in abundance during a run. They create a state of euphoria – popularly known as the “runner’s high” – that lifts your mood and dissipates stress.

Running does more than just temporarily elevate your mood; it has profound long-term effects. The regular release of endorphins acts like a natural antidepressant, helping to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.

For many, running becomes a vital part of their mental health toolkit, offering a sense of joy and clarity in a world that can often feel overwhelming.

Running Improves Mental Faculties

Each time you run, you’re doing more than just burning calories; you’re fueling your brain. Increased blood flow and oxygen to the brain during a run means you’re essentially nourishing your gray matter. This boost leads to improvements in crucial areas like memory, attention, and concentration.

As we age, our cognitive functions naturally begin to slow down, but running can put the brakes on this process. Regular aerobic exercise, such as running, acts like a fountain of youth for your brain, keeping it young and vibrant.

Again don’t take my word for it.

Many studies, such as the one out of the Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, draw a clear line connecting aerobic exercise with enhanced brain functions. It’s not just about staying physically fit; it’s about keeping your brain in top shape too.

Imagine a scenario where your ability to switch tasks, solve problems, and remember details is heightened. Running makes this possible. Research has demonstrated that even a short session on the treadmill can lead to a remarkable 20 percent improvement in memory tests.

Running Leads to Better Sleep

A study from the Journal of Adolescent Health highlights a fascinating link between morning runs and improved sleep quality. When you start your day with a run, it’s like you’re aligning your body’s internal clock with the rhythm of the day. This alignment not only energizes you for the day ahead but also helps your body wind down more effectively at night, leading to a deeper, more restorative sleep.

This Stanford University School of Medicine study takes this a step further, demonstrating the broad benefits of regular physical activity on sleep. Running, with its combination of physical exertion and stress reduction, emerges as an excellent way to enhance sleep quality.

Regular runners often find they fall asleep faster, enjoy deeper sleep, and wake up feeling more refreshed. This is because running helps regulate your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve overall sleep patterns.

Running Reduces the Risks of Cancer

Sure, running doesn’t cure cancer, but according to plenty of research, hitting the pavement on a regular basis might help prevent this notorious killer.

review  of over 170 epidemiological studies illuminates a significant connection between regular physical activity, like running, and a reduced risk of certain types of cancer. This research provides compelling evidence that an active lifestyle can be a key player in your body’s defense against cancer development.

Specifically, the study highlighting the impact of walking on reducing breast cancer risks is particularly striking. It indicates that engaging in moderate physical activities such as walking or running for at least seven hours a week can significantly lower the risk of breast cancer in women. This 14 percent reduction compared to less active individuals is a testament to how even moderate exercise can make a substantial difference.

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