As Americans, we often think that if a little bit of something is good for us, then more of that item or activity must be even better. However, when it comes to running, the studies and research prove just the opposite — more is not necessarily better and can even be harmful. As a runner, you do not want to waste your time exercising, but unfortunately, you might be doing just that! For example, a report from the Mayo Clinic indicated that running longer distances did not provide any additional mortality benefits for participants.
Instead, consider the following five specific health benefits of training for and running 5Ks as reported by the National Runners’ and Walkers’ Health Study. Even if you don’t run like a cheetah, you can still enjoy lower cholesterol and the following reduced risks of several diseases by dialing your exercise routine down. Embrace the cardio and learn to love to run, knowing these benefits can be expected you can really get moving. Just be sure to move a little faster than a turtle!
1. Respiratory Diseases
Running increases aerobic capacity and the efficient use of oxygen. Whether you are chasing your kids at the park or chasing down your next business deal, running can improve your odds of catching both. Although counterintuitive, running even helps control asthma in some participants because it provides overall strength to the respiratory system.
2. Heart Disease
Similar to a reduced risk of breathing problems, you can logically conclude that runners have a reduced risk of heart disease — you are literally running away from these health issues as you heart works hard to keep the blood circulating through your body and pumping through your veins. To be more specific, runners decrease their risk of both high blood pressure and heart disease by a staggering 40 percent.
While it’s hard to envision that running can actually help your eyesight, studies bear out this truth. One explanation might be that running impacts overall lifestyle issues, such as diabetes, which can further impact eye health. So forget the carrots to help your vision, put on your running shoes, and hit the pavement!
You might have exclaimed, “Oh, my aching knees,” and assumed that running would ruin your joints, causing you to limp and feel and look older than you are. On the contrary, research bears out that running reduces the risk of both hip replacements and osteoarthritis by 20 percent above and beyond that of walkers. Experts theorize that running more effectively reduces body mass index when compared with walking. Runners who average between 15 and 23 miles weekly — well within the training ranges for 5Ks — further decrease their risk of both maladies by 50 and 16 percent respectively over those who run fewer than eight miles each week.
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5. Alzheimer’s Mortality
Simply put, a runner’s brain works better than someone who doesn’t run. Blood circulation increases oxygen to the brain, improving the connections between synapses and enhancing overall brain function. However, running will not completely prevent Alzheimer’s. Even so, at least one study shows that running is more effective than prescriptions in combating Alzheimer’s — without the nasty side effects of the drugs.
Finally, nearly all studies conclude that, overall, runners age more gracefully. Additional listed benefits include improved mental tasks, overall cognitive functions, attention to detail, decreased depression, less anxiety, increased resistance to injury and related health improvements. Even more significant — the studies indicated that the earlier you begin exercising, the greater the benefit for you and the more you delay overall aging. Not only will you extend your lifespan, but you will also improve your quality of life in general. And that’s something that could certainly benefit everyone.