Running. It’s that thing that has been around since the beginning of time. Man sees bear, man runs from bear. Man sees food, man slowly but surely runs after food for several hours until food gets exhausted enough to be caught. In the early hunter-gatherer, run-from-bear days, the health benefits were rather obvious: Run or get killed. Run or die of starvation.
And although times have changed a bit over the countless years man has occupied this earth, running still has benefits, and dare we say, serves some vital roles in our lives. Here are some of those benefits that may or may not include keeping you alive.
1. Improves your cardiovascular health
We’ve long been told that one of the, if not the best forms of cardio is to run, probably because it’s true. Whether it’s a sprint or a longer distance run, your heart needs to be able to pump blood to your legs, your arms, head, lungs — everywhere, really. And just like anything, practice makes perfect. The more you train your heart to pump, pump, pump, it will only get better at it.
2. Improves muscle function
Running is one of those activities that uses nearly every single muscle in body. You use your glutes, hamstrings and calves help lift your legs up and bring them back softly to the ground. You use your shoulder muscles, biceps, triceps and even forearms to pump those arms in a sprint, or to help propel you forward in a jog or long run. Your core, back and glutes to help keep strong posture to allow the best flow of oxygen to all your muscles to keep them working properly.
Running will keep those muscles in good working order so that you can use them for all of the other important physical tasks in your life.
3. Improves body confidence
There’s so much to say about self confidence, and many attribute running to higher self confidence. However, self confidence embodies so many different things, and takes a variety of skill masteries to acquire total self confidence.
Running, though, can help improve confidence in your body. Perhaps it has helped you shed those extra pounds, allowed you to build muscles in places you didn’t realize you had them, or even make you feel confident in your ability to perform athletically. By taking on something as physically active as running, you will see that the confidence you have in your body will improve.
4. Can improve mental health
Mental health is that tricky subject that is so hard to find a cure for because everyone has a different reason for why he or she is struggling. That being said, many runners will swear by its benefits in combating mental health. CNN even reported on a group of runners who ran coast-to-coast to bring awareness to mental health and the benefits of running to help cope. A 2006 study even found that “exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function … has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal.”
With firsthand experience and science backing the claim, you may want to try running as a way to cope with mental health issues you might be dealing with.
5. Can improve social health
For many runners, it’s not so much about how fast or how long they go, but it’s about the company. There are several running groups in every community that can help you forge friendships with like minded people. You may even find someone or a group of people in your neighborhood who like to run.
Finding friendships that are built upon a likeness where you often spend several hours together in the wee hours of the morning may very well stand the test of time. Heck, the things you ramble about at 5 a.m. in the morning are rarely coherent, but usually pretty true. Honest friendships are built on the run, and there’s nothing more needed than a good, honest friendship.
Plus, who else are you gonna talk to about running? Certainly not a non-runner.
6. It may very well keep you alive
You may not be running from a bear or hunting down life-saving food, but running may very well still be that thing that keeps you alive a little longer than you non-runner friends.
Just ask our friends at the peer reviewed journal, Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases who found that running is a key lifestyle medicine for longevity, stating that “In general, runners have a 25-40 percent reduced risk of premature mortality and live approximately three years longer than non-runners.”
So, run, like your life depends on it. Because it very well may.