Benefits of Running

It is highly motivating to know that you are improving yourself on the inside and the outside. Following are some common and well-documented physiological benefits of running. Let's take a look at what's awaiting you.

Physical Benefits of Running

Running helps to improve respiration, making you an “easy breather.” When you run, your body needs more oxygen to fund the activity. Your lungs work harder than when they are at rest to supply the extra demand for oxygen to the body. With repetition over time, your lungs adapt to the extra workload and become more efficient at providing the extra oxygen needed for the activity. The overall effect of this extra work is that you experience more efficient and easier breathing at rest as well as when you are active.

Running also improves cardiac output. Just as success can be measured in terms of productivity or output, cardiac output refers to the productivity of the heart. It is a measure of heart rate and volume of blood pumped out with each heartbeat. When you run, your heart beats at a much faster rate than when you are at rest so that your muscles receive more blood. The more you run, the stronger and more efficient your heart becomes.

The training effect of running upon cardiac output is such that the heart at rest beats slowly yet is able to pump large amounts of blood with each beat. You get more output for less effort, improving your heart's efficiency.

As with cardiac output, running also positively affects the vascular system. Blood and oxygen move through the vascular system, the body's highway. As a result of running, veins and arteries become cleaner due to a reduction of fatty deposits. Exercise also increases the number and size of blood vessels, which is the equivalent of more paved streets in your neighborhood making travel less congested and less laborious. The effect is to improve your circulation and blood pressure.

An additional benefit of running occurs with improved muscular strength and endurance. When you run, you use one of the body's major tools: its muscles. You need muscular strength and endurance in order to perform activity or work. Muscular endurance means your ability to maintain activity or work over time. One of the effects of running is to keep your muscles functional and strong.

What is meant by the “training effect”?

The training effect refers to your body's response to a workout. When your body is stressed by exercise, it makes physical adaptations afterward so it won't be as stressed during future workouts. These positive changes you associate with exercise are the training effects.

Running also contributes to increased bone density. Muscles are attached to bone, so when you move your muscles during running, it is as if the muscles are massaging and tugging on the bones. The training effect upon your bones has to do with growth. Think of muscular movement like a bone massage that stimulates bone growth. Bone growth helps to keep bones dense, firm, and healthy.

In addition to stimulating bone growth, running can also improve the flexibility of your joints. A joint is the place where bones meet. Movement of your joints feels good; lack of joint movement feels bad. The training effect on your joints from running will improve their mobility.

Another benefit of running you might be unfamiliar with is an improvement in bowel function. Running helps to stimulate the wavelike movement in the bowels called peristalsis. This happens in part through pressure changes inside the body as a result of increased breathing. Regular and easy elimination prevents hemorrhoids and constipation.

Another physical benefit of running is enhanced sensory motor skills. As a baby and youngster you learned how to use your sensory skills; you learned about balance and movement in space through activity. In order to keep these sensory skills sharp, you have to use them. A training effect of running is the maintenance and improvement of sensory skills, like balance and movement through space or from place to place.

“I began running in June of 2000 at a time in my life when I was very depressed and overweight. I knew I had to do something to make my life better. I began running and it changed my life. Since I began running, I have lost 55 pounds and my self-esteem and self-confidence levels are very high.” — Danielle Utillo, Staten Island, NY

Psychological Benefits of Running

A well-known training effect of running is the production of endorphins. Endorphins are natural morphine-like hormones that produce a sense of well-being and reduce stress levels. They make you feel good and improve your mood. You may have heard of the “runner's high” associated with long-distance runners, but this group doesn't have exclusive rights to endorphin production. You, too, can produce your own endorphins through regular running exercise.

Another psychological benefit is that running fosters creativity and problem solving ability in many people. Frequently runners use their daily run as a time to reflect, plan their days, and clear their minds from the pressures of a hectic workday.

Social Benefits of Running

“Camaraderie is one of the main benefits of joining a running club. It gives you the opportunity to socialize and meet other runners. You exchange information, pick up running tips, maybe even find a training partner.” — Linda Hyer, Marlboro, NJ, former president of the Freehold Area Running Club

People are social animals who enjoy and need human interaction. Running builds self-confidence, which spreads to other aspects of your life. Don't be surprised if you feel a bit more outgoing and sociable after beginning your running program; this is another training effect of exercise.

Opportunities for social interaction present themselves indirectly as well as directly. You might directly choose to run with others. But even if you prefer running as a time for yourself, you can still indirectly use the subject as a conversation piece in other social situations.

Your loved ones will be proud of you for your commitment to running. Suppose someone special says to you, “I started a running program a month ago.” Do you reply, “Oh no, how could you do such a thing?” or “Oh, I'm so sorry”? Of course not. You probably congratulate him or her and offer support. Others will have the same reaction toward you, helping to reinforce your motivation.

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