Running can give you a longer life, better sleep, improved immunity, mood, and more- it's even good for your knees and lower back.
Running every day may have some health benefits. Studies show that running just 5 to 10 minutes each day at a moderate pace may help reduce the risk of death from heart attacks, strokes, and other common diseases. But the same research also shows that these benefits top off at 4.5 hours a week, meaning there’s no need to run for hours each day. Running is a high-impact exercise and overtraining can lead to injuries such as stress fractures and shin splints.
When you become a runner, it changes your life. But you may not know how much it improves every aspect.
Here’s the evidence of the amazing benefits running can give you:
1. Running adds years to life and life to your years:
Numerous studies have shown that running increases lifespan. This has led to the oft-repeated observation: “If exercise were a pill, it would be the most popular pill in the world.” Worth noting: It would also be the least expensive, with little to no cost.
A 2018 meta-analysis of research on running and longevity found that runners have about a 25 to 30 percent lower rate of all-cause mortality on follow-up than non-runners. It concluded: “Any amount of running, even once a week, is better than no running.”
2. Running helps you sleep better:
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine has found that regular exercise can improve the quality of your sleep and help you sleep through the night.
During the day, we want to do a good job at work and still see the best results from our running workouts. If you don’t sleep well at night, you have less energy during the day and thus less desire to exercise. Therefore, a good night’s sleep is essential for your training routine! This has recently been confirmed by a study on student-athletes conducted by the renowned Stanford University: Students who got more sleep (in this case, 10 full hours!), performed better than those who placed less emphasis on their sleep.
What you require after a long run or an intense bodyweight training session is recovery: Your muscles need to rest now – and this is just as important for your desired training effect as the actual workout itself. Incidentally, the male hormone testosterone plays a major role in building muscles: The harder you work out and push your muscles, the more testosterone your body releases. Testosterone is needed to help your muscles recover after your workout – without it, your damaged muscles cannot build new tissue and you won’t get stronger.
This is where sleep comes in again: The longer and better you sleep, the more time your body has for recovery and growth. So you see, your muscles do grow in your sleep.
3. Running improves immunity:
Exercise scientist and 58-time marathoner David Nieman has spent the last 40 years looking at the links between exercise and immunity. He’s uncovered mostly very good news and a few cautionary notes, while also looking at the effects of diet on the immunity status of runners. His summary: Modest exercise improves immunity, ultra-endurance efforts can decrease immunity (at least until you have fully recovered), and dark red/blue/blackberries help your body stay strong and healthy.
4. Running helps you lose weight, and keep it off:
Because it involves continuously moving your entire body weight, running burns more calories than most other activities. And you don’t have to run fast to achieve max burn. You get almost as much from running slow (but it takes twice as long).
Many runners take up the sport to improve their physical fitness. After a short time, these new runners often give a different answer to the “Why do you run?” question. That answer: “Because it makes me feel better.” They’re talking about emotions, mood, mental energy, fewer blue days, and the like.
The evidence for this effect is overwhelming. A 2016 meta-analysis of exercise and depression reached these conclusions, among other positive outcomes:
1) Exercise is “an effective treatment” for depression;
2) Exercise is as effective as psychotherapy and prescription meds; and
3) Exercise “may serve as an alternative” to costly and often-hard-to-find/schedule medical treatments.