Running is healthy for your knees and lower back, as well as your life expectancy, sleep quality, immunity, and mood.
The decision to take up running alters your life. You might not realize how much it enhances each component, though. Here is proof of the incredible advantages that running may give you:
1. Running lengthens your years and lengthens your life.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that running lengthens life. Because of this, it is frequently said that “if exercise were a drug, it would be the most popular pill in the world.” Notable: It would also cost little to nothing, making it the most affordable option.
According to a 2018 meta-analysis of studies on running and longevity, runners have a 25–30% lower follow-up rate of all-cause mortality than non-runners. “Any quantity of running, even once a week, is better than no running,” it declared in its conclusion.
Another study that focused only on runners found that they live an additional three years. Why? Greater cardiovascular fitness, a better body composition (less fat), lower cholesterol, superb glucose and insulin control, stronger bones, better hormone regulation, and good neurological functioning are just a few of the biochemical pathways.
However, few of us merely desire to live longer. Instead, we wish for a lengthy, successful, healthy, and busy life. Running and extreme fitness excel in the situation. Many studies focus on what may be done to keep “seniors” healthy because their late-life ailments account for a significant portion of the public-health expenditure. This race is almost usually won by exercise.
For instance, a recent study at Ball State University discovered that a group of 75-year-old career runners and cyclists (who had been exercising for 50 years) had biochemical profiles that were more similar to those of 25-year-old graduate students than to their 75-year-old contemporaries who did not exercise.
In a different well-known study, Stanford researchers compared local runners in their mid-50s with Stanford residents who did not exercise but had the same excellent medical care. Twenty-one years later, the death rate among runners was more than 50% lower. Unexpectedly, the runners took 11 to 16 years longer than the non-runners to reach specific “disability scores.” In other words, they continued to experience youth for longer. Additionally, the advantages of runners were more apparent as the patients aged.
2. Exercise improves sleep quality
If you haven’t read a ton of stories about how important sleep is lately, you’ve probably been sleeping under a rock. Additionally, athletes may need extra sleep. Because that is when the body does all of its mending work. Christie Aschwanden, a science writer, lists sleep as one of the few recovery “techniques” that is truly well-supported in Good to Go, her book on sports recovery.
Exercise does, in fact, speed up the process of falling asleep and increase the quality of your sleep, according to Johns Hopkins specialists. The relationship between exercise and sleep is reciprocal, according to an article in the American Journal of Lifestyle Exercise. You require more restful sleep the more you workout. Additionally, the less likely you are to exercise frequently, the poorer your sleeping patterns are.
It used to be said to runners that a nighttime run would ruin their sleep. A 2018 meta analysis of 23 studies on the subject, however, came to the opposite conclusion. Except for a strenuous interval workout done an hour before bed (don’t do it! ), other evening exercise actually made it easier to fall asleep and increased the quality of your sleep.
3. Running helps strengthen your back and knees
Many people find it hard to accept that running has this particular advantage. They assume that because running involves impact, it must be harmful to joints. Furthermore, everyone is aware of a few runners who had to turn to biking due to knee discomfort. True, but it’s also true that, on average, sedentary, overweight folks have more knee and back issues than the majority of runners.
Looking for evidence? Fair enough, I guess. In this study, 675 marathon runners were compared to non-marathon runners as controls. The results showed that “in our cohort, the arthritis rate of active marathoners was below that of the general U.S. population.” Even ultramarathoners appear to be doing well. The great running burden “seems unlikely to have a substantial detrimental affect on the femoropatellar joint [knee joint] tissues,” according to researchers who examined the knees of runners who had just finished a multiday, 2700-mile trek across Europe.
“The knees of rookie runners demonstrated consistent improvement, for at least 6 months post-marathon, in the health of their bone marrow and articular cartilage,” researchers said in a study of 44 first-time marathon runners (17 men and 27 women). The lower back is the same. Researchers compared disc spacing in veteran runners and non-runners in a research from 2020 titled “Long-term running in middle-aged men and intervertebral disc health, a cross-sectional pilot study.” Middle-aged long-distance endurance runners show reduced age-related deterioration in their lumbar IVDs (intervertebral disc height), according to the finding. Additionally, individuals’ disc-spacing appeared better the longer they had been running. In the same way, weekly miles. Running more was better.
4. Running aids with weight loss and maintenance
Running burns more calories than the majority of other activities since it requires you to move your entire body weight continually. And running quickly is not necessary to maximize burn. You get nearly as much by moving slowly (but it takes twice as long).
A 2019 editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine argued that the adage “you can’t outrun a lousy diet” is, at best, only partially true. It is undeniable that exercise may and can cause weight loss, according to the authors. It also has “a variety of other good effects on health,” according to the author. Running burns around 100 calories per mile if you want to keep track. (Multiply for more precision. To calculate your specific calorie burn per mile, multiply your body weight in pounds by 75.)
It’s not tough to lose weight; it’s keeping it off that is so challenging. Numerous studies have demonstrated that people can lose a lot of weight for roughly six months. Unfortunately, the weight gradually returns after that. Usually, after another six to 18 months, it has all returned, and perhaps even more. Yo-yo dieting is well known; this is it.
Only one group is known to defy the odds, and that group consists of people who dedicate themselves to a regular, long-term fitness routine. These successful weight loss candidates have been tracked by one program, the National Weight Control Registry. A sizable group of individuals who dropped an average of 66 pounds and maintained their weight loss for 5.5 years are being tracked by the NWCR. Ninety percent of them work out daily for an hour on average. 98 percent of people have changed their diets in some way.
The authors of a report published in 2018 titled “The Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Weight Loss and Maintenance” discovered that people who exercise 200 to 300 minutes per week maintain their weight better than those who exercise for less than 150 minutes per week. Although it requires effort and perseverance, losing weight appears to “profoundly benefit” the quality of life in terms of health.
6. Running enhances cognitive function, slows cognitive aging, and prevents Alzheimer’s
This is the newest and most unanticipated area of running’s health advantages, but it makes perfect sense. Running increases blood flow and heart rate. That involves pushing blood that is oxygen-rich toward the brain. It’s difficult to conceive how this could possibly not be beneficial.
Running may enhance brain health by inducing the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, as one meta-analysis found (BDNF). In the brain, this protein promotes the development and survival of neurons. Another study found that having a high level of fitness increases gray matter and total brain volume. Running offers protection against the specific kind of brain plaques associated to cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s, even if you don’t start until your middle or later years.