More and more people seem obsessed with running. There are the traditional road races but nowadays, you can even run a marathon across a desert, up a mountain or even through a jungle. So why should you even consider running? It’s uncomfortable; your mind is all over the place and you almost always end up a sweaty mess. What, exactly, is the big deal?
As a non-runner, you could be missing 15 tricks that runners tap into on a regular basis. Some of these fantastic benefits aren’t even directly related to your physical well-being…
1. Total flexibility
You can be a morning runner, a lunch time runner or an evening runner – the road is always going to be there for you. What’s more, you can start from and end at any destination your heart desires.
2. You can be as sociable as you want
Running allows you to be as sociable as you want. You could join a running club, such as the London-based Serpentine Running Club, which I did. Alternatively, you could choose to run alone, as I do. Most of the time.
3. It’s more enjoyable than public transport
Many runners choose to run because the prospect of using public transport is completely unappealing. After all, who in their right mind would choose to use any busy, dirty, unreliable public transport system at peak rush hour if they really didn’t need to? That’s right; no one.
4. It’s cost-effective
Once you have your basic kit, such as running shoes and clothes, running works out to be very cost-effective compared to so many other sports and you can save some money on transport, too.
5. It’s more efficient than walking
Many runners I know enjoy walking, but get frustrated by how long it takes to get where they need to be. Their logic is, “Why would you walk when you could run and get to your destination faster?”
6. It helps with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Running the winter so much easier to cope with. Seasonal Affective Disorder, a depressive illness caused by shortened daylight hours and a lack of sunlight. 20% of the UK population is affected by it in some way and for 2% of those, it’s debilitating, according to reports by the SAD Association. A UCL study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that exercise could reduce the odds of depression by as much as 19%.
7. It helps with Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Running can help ease some of the symptoms of PMS. The phenomena of “Runner’s high” or that feeling of euphoria induced by running due to the increase in endorphins may help to combat feelings of depression, prevent mood swings, and put you in a more positive frame of mind. As running causes perspiration and water loss it may also help to alleviate symptoms such as bloating and water retention.
8. There’s no pressure - you can run how you want
You can plod if you prefer, or sprint if that’s more your thing. You could even run with your arms flapping with an intermittent skip. It doesn’t matter because you’ll still be a runner.
9. Tones the arms, quads and areas you didn’t even know existed
Each stride you take during your run requires the effort of several of your muscles. Your arms are important for balance as you run. Moving the arms in rhythm with your legs can also control your speed. Keeping your arms bent at a 90-degree angle keeps your biceps contracted, working them throughout your run. The forward and backward motion of the arms helps work your triceps and shoulder muscles. Running takes your legs through a large range of motion, working them from top to bottom. The quadriceps in the front of your thighs work to stabilise your legs and propel you forward, while the hamstrings in the back of your legs bring your legs back and up as part of your stride. Moving these large muscle groups quickly while running helps raise your heart rate. Both your hamstrings and your quadriceps work every time you bend your knee, as do the muscles in your shins and calves.
10. Reduces blood pressure
Running is a natural way to keep high blood pressure at bay. Increasing the number of runs done over a week can help lower blood pressure in just a few weeks.
11. Helps build stronger muscles and bones
Those who run regularly are less likely to have bone and muscle loss. As we age, bones can either grow stronger if they're worked out, or weaker, if you're a couch potato. The sedentary lifestyle can lead to osteoporosis. In contrast, the active runner will remain strong and flexible. Running helps produce even stronger bones than resistance exercise. As an impact exercise, running helps build the muscles that lower-impact workouts ignore, keeping bones healthier even as they age.
12. Strengthens the core
Although your legs propel you forward, your abs play a supporting role in your running cadence. These muscles hold your torso in an upright position, which is integral to avoiding back pain while running. Because running causes a significant amount of spine movement, strong abs can stabilise your spine to prevent injury. A strong core improves posture, strengthens limbs, and helps make everyday activities a lot easier. A solid core in runners can improve performance, too.
13. Encourages better sleep
Runners tend to adapt to set sleeping routines in order to keep running performance consistent and high. Running is also known to encourage higher quality sleep.
14. Reduces heart disease
People who run for just an hour a week can reduce the risk of heart disease by almost half, compared to non-runners. For those already hitting the recommended physical activity guidelines, 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week for adults, an extra spurt of exercise can lower the risks of heart disease even more.
15. Reduces stress
Not only does running boost the brain’s serotonin levels, regular exercise might actually remodel the brain, making it calmer and more resistant to stress.
All these reasons combined make running a perfect sport. Why not give it a try?