Oct 7, 2021
Running is an excellent aerobic activity that has many more benefits than most people realize. Aerobic activity requires more oxygen when activity is performed. So, the faster and harder a person runs, the more oxygen she needs to take in by breathing deeper and faster.
By contrast, a nonaerobic or anaerobic exercise does not require oxygen. An example of this would be weightlifting. While these types of exercises may be good for building muscle mass, they do very little to help your vital organs such as the heart, lungs, and brain.
Before delving into why running is good for you, one needs to understand what parts of the body are affected and how those parts are changed. One of the main reasons running is good for your body is because it is aerobic. And aerobic exercises (i.e., require more oxygen) such as running lead to significant health benefits that have been proven in many scientific studies.
The benefits of running and jogging (also an aerobic activity with the same benefits as running) include:
● Better heart health
● Decreased risk of heart attack
● Lower (i.e., healthier) blood pressure
● Better control over blood sugar
● Improved bone strength
● Lower “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and higher “good” cholesterol (HDL)
● Lower weight and better weight management
● Improved lung function
● Improved sleep
● Stronger immune system
● Lower risk of certain cancers
● Better mood with lower chance of developing depression
● Increased overall stamina in every activity
● Increased lifespan and increased number of healthy, active years of life
With all of those great benefits, it’s no wonder that running is done by nearly 60 million Americans at least once a week. That translates to more than 1 out of every 6 people in the United States running, and the most common reason given was “improved health.”
While this has been a subject of much debate among runners, it has similarly been highly debated by the medical and scientific community. But assuming that time was not a factor (for example, there were no work or family commitments, no need to go food or clothes shopping, no doctors’ appointments, no television shows, and perhaps best of all, no need to sleep), how much running is healthy knowing why running is good for you?
One point that all the experts agree on is that too much running is bad. Running for too long in a single day or for every day in a week is much more likely to cause injuries, including stress fractures and shin splints (pain in the front of the lower leg with injury to the muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc. used in running and jogging).
So, it is generally a bad idea to run every day or for longer than your body allows. Building up slowly is best. When fatigue or pain starts, running should stop at that point. For some people, 5 minutes may be the ideal time, especially when first becoming a runner, while others who have been running for years may do a full hour at a time. Know your fitness level, stamina, past injuries, and current health are important to determine your ideal time for running.
One piece of good news is that the benefits of running are just as dramatic with as little as 60 minutes of running each week. Dividing this time into five days means that doing just 10 to 12 minutes of running will provide significant health benefits. Starting with 2 minutes of running, if that is all one can do at first, will lead to more stamina, longer running times, and more health benefits.
The bottom line is that no one needs to set a huge goal when it comes to running and health. Building up to a 10 or 15-minute run, four times a week will deliver all of the benefits of running. Various studies have shown that the benefits of running stop increasing at around 4 - 4½ hours of running per week. So, trying to reach a goal of one hour five days a week is unnecessary for anyone looking to benefit from the reasons running is good for your body.
The evidence on this question is undoubtedly “yes!”. Anyone wondering why running is good for you need to go no further than looking at its effect on the heart (although, as listed above, the benefits are almost limitless.) Proven benefits to the heart from running include:
● Decrease in risk of heart attack by as much as 50%
● Decrease risk of other heart problems like arrhythmias, angina (chest pain), or palpitations
● Lower resting heart rate indicates a more efficient heart
● Lower bad (LDL) and a higher good (HDL) cholesterol which means a lower chance of stroke, heart attack, diabetes, and peripheral artery disease (PAD)
Given that heart attacks and heart disease are the number one killer of Americans and have been so for many years, the benefits of running on the heart cannot be understated. And as more research emerges showing that running the risk of some forms of cancer, the second most common cause of death, the reasons running is good for your body become even clearer.
While specific statistics are scarce, it is estimated that over 120,000 joggers are hit by cars every year, with a few thousand them dying nationally. Considering there are around 60 million joggers each week, the numbers are low, but everyone can help to get the number of injured even lower. The most dangerous times to run are in the evening between 6 pm and 9 pm, and early morning as the sun is just starting to rise.
Don’t forget how blinding it can be for a driver heading due east in the early morning or west in the late afternoon/early evening.
While the list of benefits from running is quite impressive, it is important to remember that injuries can occur with running, just like with other exercises. Warming up and cooling down properly before and after every run (no matter how long) is essential toward minimizing injury.
Also, a unique danger many runners and joggers face is that often these activities are done on streets or sidewalks where cars, buses, trucks, and even bicycles are present. Wearing bright reflective clothing, ensuring someone knows the runner’s planned route and staying aware of one’s surroundings are essential parts of staying safe for runners.
Although you hopefully know why running is good for you, to ensure you safely and effectively begin or increase a program of running or jogging while limiting your risk of injury, sports medicine physicians and physiatrists are your go-to experts. They can evaluate your current physical condition and help you devise a safe and appropriate exercise plan, answer any questions, and address injuries that occur. Contact one of the experienced specialists at The Orthopedic Institute of New Jersey. With locations throughout New Jersey, there is one near you.
For consultations about any other orthopedic, athletic, or sports medicine-related issue for adults, children, and seniors, contact an OINJ doctor near you.