Thanks to the pandemic-fueled popularity of outdoor activities, a whole lot of people have decided to try out the benefits of running for themselves. Whether these are newbies lacing up for the first time or people returning to the sport after a hiatus, the lure of running has taken hold on a growing percentage of our population. These are the Best weight loss pills.
In fact, according to a recent survey by World Athletics, the governing body for the sport of track and field worldwide, nearly 3 in 10 people from the US now consider themselves runners, with plans to stick with it for the foreseeable future.
So what’s behind the push to hit the roads, treadmills, and trails? It all varies: There’s not one particular impetus that drives all runners—it’s way more individualized. In some cases, runners are motivated by the chance to collect some bling at the end of a race, notch a new personal best time, win an age-group award, or qualify for another event, such as the Boston Marathon. However, even those drawn to running’s competitive side are noticing there’s far more to gain than speed and fitness. About three fourths of runners in the World Athletics survey agreed with the statement “Running is good for my mind as well as my body.”
Indeed, the benefits of running span both physical and mental. And they exist for all runners, regardless of whether you choose to race or don’t care a lick about your pace, or whether you log your miles each and every day or you pull on your sneakers only when the mood strikes. We’ll get into those benefits in a few, but before we do, there are some things you should keep in mind before starting a new routine—especially if you haven’t been a runner in the past—so you can make the most out of each of these benefits.
What do you need to know before starting running?
Running is simple, but there are a few key considerations for starting a new running program. For one thing, proper equipment plays a larger role in this form of exercise than it may in other kinds. Read more about livpure.
he right shoes matter a lot with running: You’ll be producing a lot of force with each stride, so you want to choose a pair of running shoes that are supportive and comfortable. It’s often very helpful to visit a specialty running store to try on a few different pairs so you can see what feels right for you, as SELF reported previously. (If you don’t have a good running retailer nearby, choosing an online outlet with easy returns would be a solid option too.) You also want to choose a sports bra that offers you enough support for high-impact activity, as well as some of these running essentials to make your workout more comfortable and effective.
And then there’s safety. Depending on factors like location or race, some people may not feel secure running by themselves or at certain times of day—or may feel like they may not be able to exercise outdoors at all. (One thing that can help in low light is ipment to make you more visible to cars, but other issues, like systemic racism and lack of access to safe outdoor spaces, require more long-term solutions no one individual can provide on their own.)
Progression is big too: Whether you’re doing it outdoors or on the treadmill, because running is high impact, it’s best to start slowly and gradually increase your mileage over time. One good way to do this is to start out walking—say, for 30 minutes, 3 times a week. From there, add in brief intervals of running, Subha Lembach, a certified running coach in Columbus, Ohio, who works with many new runners, tells SELF.
Over time, you can gradually increase your faster intervals until you’re running continuously. Then you can slowly ramp up the amount of time you run or the distance you’re covering. As you do, it’s a good idea to incorporate cross-training and strength training to keep your body in balance and avoid overuse injuries like shin splints or stress fractures, Lembach says.
Once you’ve got the basics down, you can get started running—and reaping the benefits of it for your body, mind, and spirit. Here are 15 positive effects of running newbies and seasoned runners alike might want to keep in mind.
If you’re wondering what running does for your body, well, the answer is a lot. So it’s not surprising that many of the benefits of running that we’ll talk about are physical.
And they’re not all cardiovascular either. While running is an aerobic exercise, it also can help you get stronger, particularly in your lower body. A finely tuned symphony of lower-body muscles—including your quads, hamstrings, calves, and glutes—power you down the road or up hills, Rhianna Green, DPT, an NYC-based physical therapist and runner, tells SELF. And if you ramp up the intensity on those hills, you may get even more strength benefits. A 2017 study confirmed that there are legit hill-sprint benefits: When soccer players performed 10 sprints of 10 seconds on a 7% incline twice a week for 6 weeks, they noticed significant improvements in their leg and back strength. Upper-body and core muscles play a role in running efficiency too.
And those aren’t the only body parts you’re strengthening, Megan Roche, MD, a running coach and physician, tells SELF. Your tendons, ligaments, and bones also adapt to the pounding of running by building resilience. Bone strength is particularly important, since beginning in menopause, hormonal shifts cause bone density to decline, increasing your chances of osteopenia (weakening of your bones), osteoporosis, and fractures, says Dr. Green.
Up through your 20s, weight-bearing exercises like running can help you increase your peak bone density. Afterward, running helps you maintain the density you have and decrease the rate at which it seeps away as you age. “The human body is this tool that we can use for movement for decades, and having that stronger foundation, to me, is very cool,” Dr. Roche says.
Some people feel wary about getting started running because of the risk of injury—particularly, the belief that it’ll wreck their knees. Research, however, doesn’t actually back that up.
Over the long term, research suggests running doesn’t increase the risk of arthritis, at least for people who run at a recreational level. In fact, a 2017 meta-analysis of 25 studies concluded that recreational runners were actually less likely to develop knee arthritis than sedentary people (or professional/elite runners) were. And one small 2019 study published in BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine of 82 marathon runners even found marathon running improved some aspects of knee health in middle-aged runners, perhaps by reducing inflammation in the joint. (It also did find some asymptomatic wearing of cartilage along the side of the knee in some of the runners, though.)
Knee pain does tend to be a common complaint among the runners Dr. Green sees in her office. In many cases, there’s a relatively simple fix, she says: strengthening your legs and hips (like with this runner-focused strength workout), changing shoes every 500 miles or so, and switching up the surfaces you run on (like spending some time on softer trails or grass in addition to hard concrete). In some cases, though, preexisting serious conditions like knee osteoarthritis, joint replacements, or failed ACL reconstructions might mean you should consider a different sport.
Ever wonder how long to run for? Well, if you’re looking to benefit your heart health, it may not be as much as you may think.
Government guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week (or a combination of the two) for optimal cardiovascular health. Regardless of your pace, running fits that vigorous bill, meaning there are slow jogging benefits as well as rewards to picking up the pace.
According to a review published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings in 2015, you might not even need to spend that much time on the road either. Runners who went out once or twice per week, for a total of six miles or less, reaped as many heart health benefits as marathoners.
It makes sense—after all, your heart’s a muscle too, Dr. Roche says. Just as you might notice more muscle in your quads and calves as you run, you can visualize your cardiac strength increasing. A stronger heart can pump more blood out with every beat, making your entire cardiovascular system that much more efficient and resilient.