Many people start running for the wrong reason, to lose weight. With this as their focus they quickly find themselves falling off the wagon and having trouble getting back on. It’s important to realize that there are so many other benefits to running other than weight loss.
Running, as with all fitness routines, should be to create the healthiest version of yourself, not just to shed those extra pounds. Fitness, when done correctly, has weight loss as an added benefit to all the other bonuses of your exercise regimen.
Running enhances all the energy systems in the body. These systems become more efficient therefore making ALL things easier. If you can run a half marathon suddenly traffic doesn’t seem so bad, a stressful project at work seems doable, and your endurance for sports is through the roof!
Steady state cardio, like you get while running, increases the size of the left ventricle of your heart. This ventricle is where oxygenated blood is stored and then dispersed throughout the body. The bigger this gets the more blood it can send around your body with fewer heart beats.
Being able to provide blood throughout the body with fewer heart beats allows the body to carry nutrients to your cells and pick up carbon dioxide and waste products more effectively. This gives you more energy, not just during your workout, but throughout your day from the second you wake up to the moment you go to sleep.
With this increase in the left ventricle comes the benefit of a lowered Resting Heart Rate (RHR). A decrease in your RHR means that your cortisol levels (aka the stress hormone) will also be lower making even the most stressful situation seem a bit more manageable. It also means that you’ll sleep better leaving you feeling more refreshed in the mornings to take on your day. Additionally, a lowered RHR lowers blood pressure which decreases your risk for cardiovascular issues such as heart attack, stroke, coronary artery disease, arrhythmias and more.
Most of us spend the majority of our days behind a desk and computer screen to then go home to the couch and the TV screen. This constant information overload can lead to mental fatigue and burn out. Running is a great way to get outside and explore your surroundings. Studies have shown that spending time in nature can decreases stress and increases creativity.
A study be Japan found that a 20-minute walk in a forest decreased cortisol levels by more than 15% and dropped the average pulse by nearly 4% and blood pressure by over 2%. As far as creativity is concerned, for your brain to function at its highest level it needs time to recover. Studies have discovered that spending a mere 20 minutes a day outside is all you need to allow your brain to recharge, repair and start functioning again.
Another advantage of running; it’s a great way to challenge yourself personally and to watch yourself grow. The sense of achievement you get from hitting your goals or setting a personal best compare to no other feeling in the world. You’re able to give yourself tangible evidence that you succeeded; that you’ve accomplished something great. You’ve shown yourself and others that you’ve accomplished something difficult. This sense of achievement can be a very powerful motivator to do better, push yourself harder, and to try new things.
All these benefits also affect your mood. By running you’re now sleeping better, less stressed, more energized, feeling creative and accomplished, feeling healthier and finally getting the body you’ve worked so hard for. All those perks on top of the fact that running releases endorphins which are the body’s natural anti-depressants. They help to battle depression, mood swings and more. As Elle Woods said so eloquently in Legally Blonde, “Exercise gives you endorphins; endorphins."