If you’re looking to get active, running is an excellent all-purpose workout. Not only does it check the box for cardiovascular exercise, but you’ll also work all of your muscle groups — from your legs to core to upper back and more. Studies have shown that inactivity can be detrimental to your health, leading to development of chronic diseases — such as cardiovascular disease — and even early death. The good news is, however, that you don’t have to be a marathoner to reap the benefits of becoming a runner.
PROVEN BENEFITS OF RUNNING
As stated above, though running may not seem like a total-body workout, you’ll cover all of the major muscle groups during a workout and — if you’re doing all of the supplemental work suggested of runners — you’ll be able to build a strong base within a few months.
Besides being able to get a total-body workout, the overall impact to your body reaches more than just your muscles. In fact, running has been proven to slow aging. A study conducted by the Stanford University School of Medicine tracked 500 elderly runners for more than 20 years, noting that the longer they stayed active, the less likely early death became.
In addition, running can positively affect both your quality of sleep — which may sound contradictory, but stick with us — and your overall mood. In fact, one study found that when teens ran for 30 minutes in the morning before school, their psychological functioning increased and level of sleepiness decreased. This data applies to everyone; you don’t need to be running long distances daily to reap the benefits. Just blocking out a half hour a few times a week can help improve your mental health — and the chances for a better night’s sleep.
EVEN 5 MINUTES HELPS
If you don’t have those aforementioned 30 minutes to go for a run, we have some news for you: You can run even less and still reduce your risk of premature death. It’s all in a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology that looked at leisurely running and its effect on mortality.
“Running even 5–10 minutes a day and at slow speeds under 6 miles/hour,” conclude the authors of the study, “is associated with markedly reduced risks of death from all causes and cardiovascular disease.“
The study looked at more than 55,000 adults between the ages of 18–100, comprised of roughly 25% of runners. These adults were studied for roughly 15 years and as their health — and, unfortunately, deaths — were assessed. The authors found the population of runners actually gained roughly 3 years for their life expectancy.
Additionally, it is specifically noted that “the mortality benefits in runners were similar across quintiles of running time, distance, frequency, amount and speed, compared with non-runners.” Of course, those who regularly ran — referred to as ‘persistent runners’ — received the most health benefits, but it just goes to show that any amount of running has been scientifically proven to lengthen your life.
THE ART OF RUNNING
So, you’re convinced: You want to become a runner. Where do you start? Well, thanks to the study discussed above, just set a timer for two and a half minutes and run down the street. Once that timer goes off, run back to your starting point and you’ve completed the first of many runs of your extended life.
There are a few basics to keep in mind, such as outfitting yourself with the right gear — we recommend visiting your local running store to be fitted for the right pair of running shoes by an expert — and learning about the supplemental work, also mentioned above. This includes a proper recovery plan once you start running longer distances, as well as stretching and doing regular strength work to build the muscles not worked day-to-day during your runs. As you progress, you can vary your workouts by adding speed work and long runs; in the beginning, however, just regularly getting out on the roads, trail or track to build a solid base should be your focus.
If you don’t know where to start, ask the employees at your local running store when you’re there getting fit for your running shoes to connect you with other runners or download MapMyRun. Not only will it help give you an added dose of motivation and provide a way to discover new running routes in your area, but you’ll also find your crew of runners to ask questions to and train with for many years to come.