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The Benefits of Running

20 Sep 2016 by Graham Nelson

Benefits of Running

The truth is out……there are many wonderful and far reaching benefits of running with very little downside.

So, whether you are just starting out, thinking about putting on your running shoes for the first time, or unsure whether or not to include running in your exercise program, you may be interested to hear about all the different ways running can benefit us:


1. IMPROVED CARDIOVASCUALR FITNESS

Runners have been shown to have a lower resting heart rate and higher maximal oxygen consumption, which puts less strain on the cardiovascular system.

Distance runners have been shown to have larger, thicker left ventricles (the main part of the heart that pumps blood to the body) when compared to sedentary controls – leading to a fitter, more efficient cardiovascular system.

Running for just an hour a week can lower your risk of heart disease by almost half, when compared to non-runners. (Lee, DC et al, 2014)


2. MENTAL HEALTH BENEFITS

  • Improved mood

Aerobic exercise, such as running, helps to improve our emotional regulation, and has been shown to help with low mood, anxiety and depressive disorders, as shown in a study by E.E Bernstein, 2016.

Running also results in the release of a hormone called endorphin, which helps with elevating your mood.

  • Improved learning and memory

Studies have shown aerobic exercise leads to a process called neurogenesis – new cell growth – in the areas of the brain linked to memory.

There is also significantly increased blood flow to the frontal area of the brain following a 30-40 minute run.  This area relates to focus and concentration and assists in ‘clear thinking’.


3. INCREASED BONE STRENGTH

There is good evidence to indicate that weight-bearing exercise such as running and resistance/weight training help to both maintain and improve bone strength.

Due to the need to consider balance, co-ordination and functional strength factors when developing appropriate exercise programs for older populations, it is recommended that running starts at a young age and continues throughout life (at least for as long as it is deemed safe).

This will help maximise the benefits related to bone strength, at the same time balancing out the factors necessary to ensure running is a safe form of exercise.  (Shedden and Kravitz, 2004)


4. WEIGHT LOSS / MANAGEMENT

As a vigorous form of exercise, running can help you to either lose or maintain your current weight as it is good way to burn calories.  It is important to remember, however, that the activity of running itself is not the only thing to consider when utilising running for weight loss.

This needs to be combined with a healthy diet.  Running can often be combined with an increase in high calorie food consumption due to the extra calories burned from the running – ultimately leading to no weight loss at all. 

If, however, you combine regular running, including some challenging speed/interval sessions to burn more calories, with an appropriate, healthy diet, running can be a very effective way to help you lose weight. (Irving et al, 2008)


5. IMPROVED MUSCLE STRENGTH

Running can assist with improving your lower limb muscle strength, however, if you are planning to run regularly, and at longer distances, it is also important to undertake some separate strength training.  This ensures you keep your muscles strong enough to withstand the demands of running and help to prevent injury. As an old saying goes, “It is important to get strong to run, not run to get strong.”

As you can see, running can provide many benefits to our health.  In addition, it is also cheap, accessible and can easily be done with other people.  This is important, given that exercising within a group along with time constraints are common factors identified as to whether exercise is kept up routinely. Running is therefore an ideal option to help overcome these barriers.

IS THERE A DOWNSIDE TO RUNNING?

It is important to remember that while running can be very beneficial to our health, there are also certain risks that need to be considered and managed.  If you are planning on commencing a running program for the first time, or returning to running after a long break, it would be advisable to undergo a comprehensive musculoskeletal assessment to ensure there are no dysfunctions or imbalances that will increase your risk of injury. You should also start at a light load, gradually increasing.  A combination of walk/jog is a good way to introduce running in to your exercise regime to manage load and help prevent injury.

If you have a history of cardiovascular disease, it would also be advisable to consult your GP prior to introducing running to your exercise regime.

A common belief is that running can also have a negative impact on our joints, potentially contributing to arthritis in the weight-bearing joints such as the hip and knee. There is no evidence to suggest there is a link between long distance running and arthritis in people that have no history of traumatic joint injury. There is even the suggestion that running can have a protective effect against joint degeneration.(Cymet et al, 2006).

 

So if you are interested in starting a running program or want to improve your running so that you can enjoy it more, a good first step is to have a running assessment.

This will include a comprehensive running analysis and functional screening tests to determine whether there are any factors that may impede your running.

A detailed report with recommendations will be emailed to you to clearly identify the steps required for you to run with confidence.

Time for assessment is 1hr and further 1hr is allocated for compilation of the report.

Until the end of Spring, we are offering running assessments for only $79, normally valued at $220.

If you are interested in a running assessment, please contact us at the clinic to make an appointment.

If you would like to discuss further, please email wes@nwpg.com.au.


References:

Lee, DC et al. (2014). Running reduces risk of death regardless of duration, speed. American College of Cardiology.

Bernstein, E & McNally, R J. (2016). Acute aerobic exercise helps overcome emotion regulation deficits.  Cognition and Emotion.

Shedden, M & Kravitz, L. (2004).  Exercise and Bone Strength. IDEA Personal Trainer, 15(5), 34-37

Irving, B A et al. (2008). Effect of Exercise Training Intensity on Abdominal Visceral Fat and Body Composition. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 40 (11), 1863-1872

Cymet, T C & Synkov V (2006). Does long distance running cause osteoarthritis? The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, Vol 106, 342-345.

http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2016/04/how-neuroscientists-explain-the-mind-clearing-magic-of-running.html

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