The human body was built for running — especially over sustained, long distances. While other animals like cats, dogs, whitetail deer, etc. can beat us in a sprint, our frames — from our long ligaments and Achilles tendon to the arches (built-in shock absorbers) in our feet — evolved to go the distance. In the past, we needed to walk and run long distances to migrate to “greener pastures” and chase down prey, which is why running is so ingrained in our genetic code.
Running, when done right, is a wonderful form of exercise. Here are five running benefits you should be aware of, perfect for motivating runners to sprint farther, as well as nudging non-runners into giving it a go.
Running Improves Mood and Helps Alleviate Depression
Running improves mood and can help alleviate feelings of depression. Numerous studies over the years, including research published by the American Psychological Association, points to how running and exercise help lower rates of anxiety and depression, and support people who must "deal with anxiety and panic attacks." Jogging boosts overall mood and increases blood supply to the brain as well.
If you spend 15 to 30 minutes a day or more running, you can help stave off depression, shed pent-up stress from your body, enhance feelings of positivity — and do something beneficial for your state of health.
Running Burns Calories and Sheds Excess Weight
Combined with the right diet and portion control, running is a smart way to get rid of excess weight. On average, runners burn 100 calories per mile. Running is a great aerobic workout that gets your heart rate up, and can put a blasting cap on body fat bunching up in all the wrong places.
To optimize the health benefits of running, make sure you get in plenty of extra steps — walking and running — every week. Depending on your body type and weight loss goals, try to run at least five miles per day to lose approximately one pound per week. Eating smaller portions and creating a weekly calorie deficit (in combination with running) will also help you burn fat.
Better Sleep Through Running
Many studies have shown that if you're a runner, regular jogs will help you get a better night's sleep. Aerobic exercise can boost the amount of deep (slow-wave) sleep we get. Researchers are still investigating the mechanisms behind why aerobic workouts, like running, help with sleep — but studies show that it can be very beneficial.
It’s best to get your run in at least a few hours before bedtime or earlier in the day. Right after a run, your core temperature is elevated, and your body is still releasing endorphins, which can have the stimulating effect of “waking” you up. A few hours after a run, though, and you’ll be more than ready to conk out.
Running Promotes Healthy Hearts
Running promotes a healthy heart. Even with 10 to 15 minutes a day of running, you’ll likely see vast health improvements. Increased blood flow and a stronger cardiovascular system reduce the risk of heart-related ailments and increase longevity for the majority of dedicated runners out there — although ultra-marathoners might be pushing their bodies too far on occasion, according to some studies.
Jogging is Good for the Brain
Running boosts brain function for the young and old alike. For younger runners, it helps them focus and improves memory. The same is true for older people, but running can hold even greater significance for the elderly. As people age, the cognitive enhancements that come from running help keep them mentally agile, and possibly increase their lifespans as well, both of which are incredible things.