Running is incredibly popular and it’s easy to see why. Not only is the activity synonymous with being healthy, but it’s one of the few types of exercise that you can simply begin on your own. You don’t need any special gear or instruction, just you, your feet, and the road.
Is running good for you? The obvious answer is yes. There are plenty of benefits, many of which we’ll highlight in this post.
Even so, there’s a darker side to running too. As with any healthy activity, running can be a problem if done to excess. It might not be the best type of exercise for your needs either.
For those who are already passionate about running, don’t worry, there’s no need to give it up. The trick is simply to listen to your body and be sensible. Having the right gear can help too, so why not take a look at activewear subscription boxes or subscription boxes for runners?
Is Running Good For Your Health?
- Benefits Of Running
- Does Running Help You Lose Weight?
- How Running Can Be Harmful
- Is Running Bad For Your Joints?
- How To Get The Most Out Of Running
- What If I Hate Running?
- Final Thoughts
Benefits Of Running
It’s Excellent For Your Health
Running is one of the best exercises for your heart, helping to reduce your risk of heart disease (it’s called a cardio exercise for a reason!).
It has health benefits throughout your body too. In fact, staying active might even keep you alive for longer.
Running helps to exercise your muscles too, particularly your leg muscles. That’s not all. You’re exercising your core too, along with some of your arm muscles.
In contrast, exercises at the gym often focus on a single area of the body at the time. While that approach has its uses too, sometimes it’s powerful to target your entire body all in one go.
There are plenty of other health benefits too. For example, regular cardiovascular activity can help you to fall asleep faster. It can improve sleep quality too. This isn’t surprising. Who doesn’t sleep better when they feel like they’ve earned it?
Can Improve Mental Health
Running helps with mental health in a few different ways.
The first is that you’re exercising. The link between physical exercise and mental health is well established, especially for aerobic exercise.
Even just a little activity can boost your mood, while being active regularly significantly reduces your risk of depression. Running is often an easy place to begin, as you don’t need any equipment.
There’s also the fact that you’re normally outside.
Getting out in nature is a mood lifter all on its own. The combination of activity and nature is even more powerful.
Running also gives you time out for yourself. You can separate yourself from the stresses of the day and simply unwind. Many people find this aspect to be just as important as actually exercising.
Finally, because running is generally a solo activity, you can easily adjust it to your needs. Choose the timing and the pace that works for you, whether that is an intense run first thing in the morning, a meandering jog in the evening, or something else entirely.
This type of flexibility is fantastic if your mental health isn’t that great right now.
Running Is An Excellent Stress Reliever
For all the reasons we mentioned above, running is an excellent way to decrease stress. Plus, you’re often running at a mild to moderate pace, so we’re not talking about intensive exercise.
Many people use running for exactly this reason, seeing it as a way to decrease stress and to take some time out for themselves. And honestly, if you’re spending most of your day around other people, sometimes a bit of time out is exactly what’s needed.
It’s An Easy Way To Exercise
Whether you exercise at home, go to the gym, or spend your time in nature, there are countless ways to be active. They all share many of the same benefits, like helping to improve your mood, promoting physical health, and decreasing disease risk.
Running stands out in that you don’t need any equipment, special training, or a gym membership. All you need is yourself, a decent pair of shoes, and somewhere safe to run.
Few other types of exercise are this accessible.
Does Running Help You Lose Weight?
Running, like any form of exercise, can help you lose weight. That’s not surprising, is it? After all, you’re burning more calories than if you simply stayed at home and did nothing.
Many people even tout running as an amazing tool for weight loss. Unfortunately though, while running might help you lose some weight, it isn’t as effective as it first seems.
One issue is that your diet often influences weight loss than our exercise. Getting exercise is still relevant, but it’s much less powerful than we often assume.
Another issue is that running is often a low to moderate intensity activity, where you’re keeping your pace fairly stable. If you’re going to lose weight with running, varying the intensity should help you to burn more calories.
You’re also focusing on cardio work, rather than strength building.
You need some strength building exercises too, as otherwise you’ll lose too much muscle mass as you exercise. This isn’t good, as your muscle mass influences your metabolism.
Finally, running is inefficient. You’ll burn calories faster with many other types of exercise.
All these areas mean that running will never be the best exercise for weight loss. Still, there are plenty of other reasons to run and if you love running, then it shouldn’t matter whether or not running is the optimal type of exercise for weight loss.
How Running Can Be Harmful
Too much of pretty much anything can be bad for you – and that includes exercise. This isn’t too surprising, as people who are obsessed with exercise are cutting down on other good parts of their life.
Interestingly, too much exercise might decrease your lifespan in the same way that too little can. This might be due to the idea of wear and tear. After all, even low intensity exercise places some strain on your body.
Running may be particularly risky, as it is a repetitive exercise. You’re making the same movements over and over again, sometimes for hours at a time. The issues are even worse if you’re running on hard surfaces and potentially jarring your joints.
It’s not your joints at risk either. While running is seen as a heart healthy exercise, too much running appears to increase the risk of hardening of your arteries and heart tissue damage.
To make matters worse, excessive running mightn’t look like you expect. Some research suggests that the healthiest amount of running is around two and a half hours per week (at a low to moderate pace). Many people are running much more than that.
The Risk Of Injury Is High
Running can lead to many different injuries, including shin splints, ankle sprain, stress fractures, achilles tendinitis, and hamstring injuries – to name just a few.
There are also temperature-related issues, like sunburn or heat exhaustion, which are most common when you don’t dress for the temperature or forget to use sunscreen.
Staying hydrated and stretching are important strategies for reducing injury. Taking things slowly can help too, as many injuries happen because athletes try to do too much too soon.
Still, the risk of injury remains even if you do everything right. If you do get injured while running, it’s important to give your body the time that it needs to recover properly. Don’t rush things or you’re likely to make the problem much worse.
It Can Displace Other Healthy Activities
The more time you spend running, the less time you have for other healthy activities in your life, like spending time with family, preparing healthy dinners, or doing other types of exercise.
This displacement effect isn’t a big deal if your runs are short and you’re not running every day. But, start running for an hour or two daily and you might start to notice problems.
It’s particularly concerning if you’re using running as your only form of exercise, as running doesn’t help to strengthen or condition your muscles well. You should be doing strength building exercises as well as running, including squats and calf raises.
Such strength work is important for your health and also decreases the risk of injuries from running.
The Risks May Be Higher For Some People
The risks of running often increase as you age. This doesn’t mean that you need to stop running, but you need to take more time to prepare well.
The warm up is particularly important here and the process might take longer the older you get. Don’t rush it though. Running isn’t going to help at all if you injure yourself.
Choosing the running surface can help too. Running on grass or a track is often better than concrete, as such surfaces won’t impact your joints as much.
Is Running Bad For Your Joints?
Knee and joint pain are common problems for runners. You might even feel like quitting entirely because of the pain.
Yet, surprisingly, running may actually be good for your joints, helping to strengthen them and protect you against arthritis.
Even so, it’s important to talk to your doctor about any pain you’re experiencing, especially if it begins suddenly. Pain is sometimes a signal of an injury or some other problem, so it’s always worth checking things out.
Failing to check out the cause of your pain could make the problem worse over time and increase how long it takes to recover.
While running itself should reduce joint pain, running with a muscle imbalance or poor form could lead to joint problems. This is why it’s so important to pay attention to your form.
How To Get The Most Out Of Running
Don’t Run Every Day
First of all, if you want to maximize your benefits and minimize risks, ditch the idea that you need to run every day. Seriously. Running every day might seem like a powerful idea, but you’re not giving your body any chance to rest.
Don’t assume that more is always better either. Constantly pushing yourself to go the extra mile could easily cause harm, especially if you’ve already done a decent amount of running.
If you feel like you absolutely need to run every day, try doing light and gentle runs on your rest days. This still gives your body the time it needs to recover, while allowing you to enjoy the benefits of being outside and moving.
But, we’re not kidding about keeping things light. If your rest days start to be even a little challenging, then your body isn’t recovering in the way that it needs to.
Running might not seem as intensive as lifting weights, but it’s still important to begin slowly. Start with a slow pace and relatively short runs, then build things up from there.
This approach gives your body time to adjust to the process, while reducing the risk of problems like stress fractures and shin splints.
Stretching before you run is important too. Don’t miss this, even if you’re just taking a short run, as stretching helps lower injury risk too.
Listen To Your Body
One of the best ways to get the balance of running and resting right is to slow it down and listen to your body. Be willing to take a day off or do a shorter run if it seems like you need to.
Listening to your body is crucial because we’re all different. Studies haven’t figured out the optimal amount of running for health and even if they do, the number they find won’t apply to everyone.
The only way you can truly know the best amount of running for you is to experiment. Pay attention to how you feel during exercise, straight after, and the day after.
You might even keep a journal and start to track key things, like your exercise, what you eat, and your mood. Doing this will help you get a sense of patterns and figure out what your body needs.
Listening to your body like this should help you spot any problems early on and avoid injury.
Have Good Form
Having a good running form minimizes your risk of injury, so you’ll get the most out of your exercise.
If you’re uncertain about your running form, it’s best to look into this early. Perhaps see what you can find online or, better yet, ask an expert to look at your form and make suggestions.
Doing this early on is important. After all, running injuries take time to recover from and kick you out of the game for a while. It’s much better to avoid them altogether.
What If I Hate Running?
Running is beloved by many people, but plenty of other people hate it. So, what happens if you fall into the latter camp?
Well, first of all, running isn’t essential. It’s a useful form of exercise, but it’s hardly the only one.
If you find running difficult, why not look for a different type of cardio? Some people find that exercise classes are more effective, as you have someone giving instructions and encouraging you.
If you want to convince yourself to love running, then try starting slowly with short runs. Some runners on Reddit suggest simply getting your gear on and getting outside. Even if that’s as far as you get, that’s okay.
Doing something interesting with the time can help too, like listening to music or a podcast. There are even apps that try to turn your exercise into a game.
The other thing is to simply keep at it. Give running a chance for a while, even if you hate it. Plenty of other things in life work this way, where it takes time to learn to enjoy yourself.
Running does come with significant risks. Not only is there the chance that you injure yourself, but even if you run safely, you might be overdoing it.
Is this a reason to avoid running? Not at all. Running still has many benefits. It’s an easy way to stay active, one that gets you out in nature and may help you to de-stress.
The trick is to work out whether running is right for you.
If you find that running hurts, that you loathe it, or that it takes too long, there’s no reason to stick with it. Seriously, there are countless other ways to exercise. You’ll get the most benefits by focusing on approaches that you enjoy and that complement your physical needs.